On 23 November, at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), Atlantic fishing nations, led by Canada, Senegal and the UK, agreed “to a new conservation measure for North Atlantic shortfin mako shark caught in association with ICCAT fisheries, starting in 2022, to end overfishing immediately and to gradually achieve biomass levels sufficient to support maximum sustainable yield by 2070.”
The world’s fastest shark is currently listed as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN red list of endangered species and is highly prized for its fins and meat around the world. As it is considered exceptionally vulnerable in the North Atlantic, the agreement comes at a crucial time.
The ICCAT is an international fishery organisation made up of more than 50 countries that is responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Mediterranean and Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic Ocean. The decision made now means that tuna and swordfish fishing fleets in the Atlantic and adjacent waters will not be able to harvest shortfin mako sharks any longer. The ICCAT also agreed on tackling unregulated, illegal fishing activities as well measures to conserve bigeye and yellowfin tuna with new catch limits being assesses in 2023. How exactly these new measures will be implemented and monitored is still to be seen.
Conservationists see the new measures as positive. The director of conservation at the Shark Trust, Ali Hood, for example, called the agreement a “critical breakthrough”.
“This is a remarkable list of improvements that will contribute to the successful management and conservation of tunas, sharks and billfishes in the Atlantic Ocean. By nearly any measure, this meeting was a success, shows that real progress can be made despite the challenges of the pandemic, and the fishing operations, other stakeholders, and wildlife impacted by ICCAT decisions will be better for it,” said Grantly Galland, an officer at the Pew Charitable Trust.
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Photography courtesy of Unsplash.