By Ann Schmidt
Published March 22, 2019
The world’s fastest shark is now an endangered species, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The mako shark was one of 58 total species of sharks and rays that had their Red List Assessment updated by the organization’s Shark Specialist Group (SSG), according to a statement from the organization released Thursday.
Seventeen of those species were marked as threatened with extinction.
Professor Nicholas Dulvy, the co-chair of the SSG, based at Simon Fraser University, said that because sharks grow slowly and are unprotected from overfishing, they tend to be the most threatened, so the SSG findings aren’t necessarily unexpected.
“Of particular concern is the fast and iconic shortfin mako shark, which we’ve assessed as endangered based on serious depletion around the globe, including a 60 percent decline in the Atlantic over about 75 years,” Dulvy said in the statement.
The longfin mako was also listed as endangered.
The meat and fins of makos are valuable in many countries, according to the release, though there are no international fishing quotas for the sharks.
The updated assessments of the 58 species by the IUCN was part of a global project to gauge population trends, starting with species in Australia and oceanic species around the world, the release said.
Many of the Australian species were deemed to be of least concern, however, some of the oceanic species were still at risk, according to Dr. Peter Kyne, the SSG Red List Authority Coordinator, based at Charles Darwin University.
“The nine Australian sharks that remain at serious risk are mostly deep-water species that are exceptionally slow-growing and thereby ill-equipped to withstand even modest fishing pressure,” Kyne said in the statement.
The sharks and rays that were of least concern are species that aren’t usually eaten or that typically live in deeper locations, such as the Megamouth Shark, which was deemed to have a healthy population.
The SSG is calling for national and international fishing limits in order to help the populations of sharks and rays to recover, Sonja Fordham, SSG Deputy Chair said in the statement.
“The threats to sharks and rays continue to mount and yet countries around the world are still falling far short of their conservation commitments, particularly with respect to basic limits on catch,” Fordham said.