Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) – Atlantic population: Consultation and engagement on potential listing under SARA

Current status: Closed

This consultation ran from December 5, 2022 to February 17, 2023.

The Species at Risk Act (SARA) supports Canada’s commitments to conserve biological diversity by providing legal protection for wildlife species at risk. SARA acknowledges that all Canadians have a role to play in the conservation of wildlife species.

Before deciding whether the Atlantic population of Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) will be added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk under SARA, we would like to receive your comments regarding the possible ecological, cultural, and economic impacts of listing or not listing this species.

Join in: How to participate

Share your ideas online

The Government of Canada is engaging with Canadians on whether endangered Shortfin Mako (Atlantic population) should be added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.

Please fill out the online survey. Thank you.

Key questions for discussion

Adding a species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk

The first step in the process to determine if a species should be listed under SARA is an assessment with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). COSEWIC, an independent committee of experts, assesses the status of a species based on the best available information, including scientific data, local ecological information and Indigenous knowledge. COSEWIC then assigns the species a designation based on its risk of disappearing in Canada (e.g. endangered, threatened, special concern).

Once the species is assessed, the Government of Canada decides if it will be added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk under SARA. Public engagement is an important step in the process to gather information on the potential positive and negative impacts of protecting a species under SARA.

Facts about Shortfin Mako

Shortfin Mako are highly migratory sharks and their abundance in Canadian waters varies depending on the season. Atlantic Canadian waters represent the most northern extent of the population’s range.

Image of Shortfin Mako
Figure 1. Image of Shortfin Mako (Jeffery C. Domm).

Shortfin Mako are sleek and spindle shaped with a long pointed snout, short pectoral fins, and a crescent shaped caudal (tail) fin (Figure 1). The second dorsal (top) fin is much smaller than the first. The top of the shark (dorsal side) is dark blue with a band of metallic indigo blue on the sides and the bottom (ventral side) is white. Shortfin Mako have slender, slightly curved teeth, with no lateral cusps, and the teeth are visible when the mouth is closed. Their diet includes fish, squid, marine mammals and smaller shark species. Females can reach over three metres in length. With increasing size, a shift to larger prey likely occurs.

Shortfin Mako are slow growing, relatively late to mature, and have a low reproductive rate. The reproductive cycle is between two to three years and litters range from four to 16 pups. Estimated generation time is approximately 25 years.

Status designation of Shortfin Mako in Atlantic Canadian waters

COSEWIC assessed the Atlantic population of Shortfin Mako as threatened (April 2006) and special concern (April 2017); however, based on new information, the population was reassessed as endangered in May 2019.

Why are Shortfin Mako assessed as endangered?

Shortfin Mako are vulnerable to fishing pressure due to life history characteristics, including relatively slow growth rates, late age of maturity, and low reproductive rates. Fishing pressure is currently the only threat identified for this population. In 2017, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) carried out a comprehensive assessment of Shortfin Mako. ICCAT concluded that the North Atlantic Shortfin Mako population is depleted and overfishing above sustainable levels is continuing. Since 1994, annual catches of Shortfin Mako have averaged 3,685 metric tonnes (mt) in the North Atlantic, with an average of 67 mt coming from Canada. There are no fisheries targeting Shortfin Mako in Canadian waters. However, Shortfin Mako are caught as bycatch in a number of fisheries, primarily in pelagic fisheries (i.e., water column) and, to a lesser degree, benthic (bottom)  longline fisheries. As of April 2021, the retention of Shortfin Mako bycatch is not permitted in any Atlantic Canadian commercial fishery or recreational fisheries.

What happens if Shortfin Mako are listed as an endangered species under the Species at Risk Act?

If Shortfin Mako are listed as endangered, the prohibitions of SARA would immediately come into effect in Canadian waters. It would be illegal to kill, harm, harass, capture, possess, buy, sell, or trade Shortfin Mako. A recovery strategy and subsequent action plan(s) would be developed to identify measures to address threats and recover the population. Critical habitat, which is habitat necessary for the survival and recovery of Shortfin Mako, would need to be identified to the extent possible, in a recovery strategy or action plan. Destruction of any part of the critical habitat would be prohibited under SARA.

How would listing under SARA benefit Shortfin Mako?

The prohibitions implemented under SARA would offer legal protection for the species in Canada and would trigger recovery planning in collaboration with key partners. There may be increased access to funding for scientific research and stewardship activities aimed at recovering the species.

How would listing Shortfin Mako impact fishing activities?

All recorded mortality, and estimated mortality (if available) would be counted toward an annual up to 59 mt/yearFootnote 1 interim management objective, until such a time that a Canadian-wide Allowable Harm estimate could be set.

Indigenous fisheries

There are currently no Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) or moderate livelihood fisheries targeting Shortfin Mako. Licenced Indigenous fisheries with the potential to catch Shortfin Mako as bycatch could be issued a permit or exemption (Section 73, 74 or 83(4)) if certain pre-conditions are met (Section 73(3)).

Commercial and recreational fisheries

Fishing activities with the potential to catch Shortfin Mako as bycatch would be reviewed to determine if they qualify for a SARA permit or exemption. If a permit or exemption is issued, non-directed fisheries could continue to operate. Shortfin Mako caught as bycatch must be returned to the water, and if alive, in the manner that causes the least harm. Bycatch reporting will be required. Other measures could also be implemented, such as gear modifications, increasing the level of detail recorded for Shortfin Mako bycatch, and mandatory discard reporting. Additional measures, such as the development of a bycatch strategy or collaborative research into best release protocols, could be taken if mortality levels are observed to be regularly above acceptable levels.

Related information

Contact us

Species at Risk Program, Maritimes Region
PO Box 1006, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, B2Y 4A2

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