This month we're showcasing the speedy Shortfin Mako...

Shortfin Makos are truly built for speed. A long pointed snout and streamlined body make them incredibly hydrodynamic. Plus they have a powerful crescent-shaped tail that propels them through the water.

Shark skin is covered with millions of tiny teeth-like scales called dermal denticles, which point backwards to reduce surface drag. Makos also have ‘flexible scales’ on the parts of their body that experience the most flow – such as the edges of their pectoral fins. These ‘bristle’, helping to push water over their body more efficiently.

Another amazing adaptation - which they share with their close relative the White Shark - is the ability to warm essential regions of their body (known as thermoregulation). This gives them enhanced sensory abilities and powerful bursts of speed.

In fact, the Shortfin Mako is the fastest shark on record, reaching estimated speeds of 30mph. Possibly more. Enabling them to chase down fast bony-fish, such as tuna and swordfish.

Due to a camouflage strategy known as counter shading they are also difficult to spot. Being a darker colour on top, when looking down on them from above, they blend in with the open-ocean below. At the same time they are concealed against the lighter surface, when looking up at them from below. So, as well as being fast their prey often doesn’t even see them coming!

Shortfin Makos have a very low reproductive rate, only giving birth every 3 years. Females mature at 18 years and only produce 4-25 pups, after a 15-18 month gestation. So they are highly susceptible to overfishing.

Valued for their meat and fins, they are targeted by fisheries and taken in huge volumes as bycatch. They have no catch limits and because of this the North Atlantic population is in steep decline.

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Isurus oxyrinchus

  • FAMILY:  Lamnidae


  • DIET: Mainly fish and squid. But larger sharks may prey on small marine mammals.

  • DISTRIBUTION: Worldwide, preferring the temperate-tropical waters (17-20°C ) of the open-ocean.

  • HABITAT: Coastal and oceanic waters from 0-600m deep. Prefers warmer waters but may dive into deeper colder waters ~10°.



Repeatedly, scientific assessments have demonstrated that overfishing is having a devastating effect on mako populations in the Atlantic. 

The Shortfin Mako is one of the world’s most economically valuable sharks, sought for meat, fins, and sport. Their slow growth makes them exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing. Depletion of this highly migratory, oceanic species is most apparent in the North Atlantic. ICCAT scientists have warned that annual North Atlantic Shortfin MAko catches need to be cut from recent levels (~3000 metric tons) to just ~300t to give the population a decent (60%) chance of recovering within five decades. 

In March 2019, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classified Shortfin (and Longfin) Mako Sharks as Endangered, based on Red List criteria. In August, the EU and 27 co-sponsors successfully proposed both species for listing on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). CITES Parties are now required to demonstrate that mako exports are sourced from legal, sustainable fisheries.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, ICCAT parties failed to take measures to safeguard Shortfin Mako at their 2019 meeting - see our press briefing.

We continue to work flat out behind the scenes to secure protection for makos. You can keep an eye on our progress by following us on Twitter. #MakeOrBreak4Makos

Many thanks for all your support.

Related Links:

► Adopt the Shortfin Mako as part of our No Limits? sharks adoption

► Discover more about our No Limits? Campaign, which is working to stop uncontrolled shark fishing

► Check out more incredible sharks and rays covered in our Creature Features

► Discover more fin-tastic facts by visiting our Discover Sharks section