NOAA Asks Fishermen to Release Makos

Mako being released from a longline. Image from Underwater Times (underwatertimes.com).

NOAA/NMFS has released a statement asking commercial fishermen to release mako sharks caught alive.  They also ask that fishermen report where the makos are released so they can update their information on mako movements and distribution.  The reason for this is that stock assessment research has suggested that makos are in decline for some time, and while more information is needed, they want to encourage fishermen to be cautious about harvest rate of these sharks.

As of right now this program is voluntary, which leads me to wonder just how successful it’ll be.  Makos have possibly the highest-value meat of any bycaught shark, and are a relatively regular bycatch among tuna and swordfish longliners.  They are also very popular among sport fishermen and shark researchers alike for pretty much the same reason: they are completely badass.  Makos are among the fastest fish in the sea, more agile (and much more awesome) than dolphins, and regularly tear enormous billfish in half.  They are also very seldom released because of the high grade of their meat and the fact that they look amazing mounted on the wall.  (Disclaimer: I’ve eaten this shark, and it’s like swordfish but better, a cruel reminder of what I gave up when I decided to stop eating my favorite animals.)

Interestingly, as of right now there are no real standards for the management of makos.  The size limits currently imposed by NMFS are significantly below the size at maturity for both males and females, never a recipe for effective management.  Here’s hoping that whatever information gained from this volunteer program leads to responsible management of these amazing sharks, ensuring that in future generations seafood fans, fishermen, and shark nerds alike can enjoy them.

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