Even the mako shark, the fastest species of shark in the world, can’t outpace overfishing.
According to new scientific research, the population of the mako shark — one of the apex predators in the region — is in severe decline in regions of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Often fished for sport the species is populous throughout the world but the study, which tracked 34 sharks via satellite telemetry over the course of three years, says that new information is a clear call for more sustainable practices in regards to mako fishing.
“The fishing mortality rates we observed were well above those previously reported for mako sharks in the North Atlantic,” reads the report.
According to Katie Schleit, the marine campaign co-ordinator of the Ecology Action Centre, there isn’t a large market for mako shark fishing, though some people do choose to eat their meat.
Schleit says the study indicates that the status of the species is worse than anyone believed.
“What (the study) shows us was that if we want to keep the population where it is now, we’d have to drastically reduce fishing,” said Schleit.
“Catching zero short fin mako only gives us a 50 per cent chance that the population will rebuild.”
According to the Ecology Action Centre, nearly 85 metric tonnes of mako shark were caught in 2016.
One of the problems that is exacerbated by these new findings is the fact that the mako shark is slow to reproduce.
“A shark can only put out a limited number of pups,” explains Heather Bowlby, the research lead at the Canadian Atlantic Shark Research Laboratory. “For the population as a whole, if they are taken, then they can’t rebound very quickly from that.
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Bowlby says that the species is often caught as a byproduct of other fishing networks such as swordfish. Other times they are caught in events or competitions like Nova Scotia’s shark derbies.
The Government of Canada says they don’t sponsor the events but do use the data and specimens collected during the competitions to inform their scientific research.
On Aug. 14, a shark that weighed nearly 500 kilograms was caught at the Lockeport fishing derby. The shark measured 11.6 feet long.
Canada has an established limit of 100 tonnes that can be caught in a fishing season, but the ecology action centre says there isn’t a scientific basis for that limit.
“Canada and other countries have ignored calls to manage these sharks with an enforced, precautionary limit on catch for years and now the species is in serious trouble,” said Shannon Arnold, marine policy co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre.
“We’ll be looking to Canada to lead the way…and call for a halt to landing shortfin mako based on this new scientific information.”