ICCAT is the high-seas intergovernmental body responsible for the management and conservation of tuna and tuna-like species (including sharks) in the Atlantic Ocean.

An annual meeting is held each autumn, with additional intersessional meetings (including stock assessments and working groups) convened throughout the year.


Although the name of the Commission refers to ‘tunas’ – ICCAT’s remit includes tuna-like species, such as swordfish and pelagic sharks (e.g. Blue Sharks, Shortfin Makos, Porbeagle). However, ICCAT has finally adopted new Convention text which formally incorporates sharks and rays, and provides more avenues for securing management. Once ratified, this amended text will modernise the Convention and strengthen the remit for shark conservation.


Together with our Shark League partners, we’ve been urging ICCAT Parties to:

  • Implement a non-retention policy for Shortfin Makos
  • Agree science-based international fishing limits for Blue Sharks
  • Defend, and where possible, improve existing ICCAT prohibitions (hammerheads, threshers, Oceanic Whitetip Sharks, Silky Sharks)
  • Strengthen Porbeagle advice and management
  • Tighten the existing shark finning regulation to fins attached, banning removal of shark fins at sea

Since 2017, our priority focus has been on making the strongest possible case for ICCAT to do the right thing for makos and follow the science: a non-retention policy with no exceptions and measures to minimise incidental mortality.


Proposals are presented by Parties and are generally agreed by consensus, meaning all 53 ICCAT Parties (including the EU) need to agree to the measures put forward. If just one Party wants to block a proposal, they can do so. In some instances, the proposals can go to a vote – however as sharks haven’t been included in the Convention text to date, it's not yet been possible for this to happen.


Our No Limits? campaign strives to end uncontrolled shark fishing. It highlights the need for science-based management – our star species are Blue Shark and Shortfin Mako. Management is required for these highly migratory, vulnerable species on an international scale through RFMOs.


Blue Sharks have a more conservative life history strategy than Shortfin Makos. Females:

  • Mature at 5-7 years old
  • Reproduce more frequently
  • And have larger litters (35–135 pups) after a 9–12 month gestation period

Whereas for Shortfin Makos:

  • Females mature at 18-21 years
  • Only reproduce every 2–3 years
  • Have smaller litters (4–25 pups) following a 15–18 month gestation period.

At ICCAT 2016, small steps were taken towards establishing limits on the North Atlantic Blue Shark population.

In 2019 at the 26th Regular Meeting of ICCAT, ground-breaking new catch limits for Blue Sharks were finally adopted. These catch limits represent a first in the world - although regional fishery bodies have banned take of several shark species, they had yet to set concrete international catch limits for sharks, until now. Although at the upper end of scientific advice, science-based limits on landed Blue Shark tonnage will now be established for both the North and South Atlantic.


For the Shortfin Mako (which was up-listed to Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2019), ICCAT scientific advice recommends a complete ban on retention in the North Atlantic as they continue to be overfished.

ICCAT scientists warned that if annual North Atlantic Shortfin Mako catches are cut from recent levels (~3000 tonnes) to 0t, the population will continue to decline until 2035 with a 53% probability of recovery by 2045. If catches were cut to ~300t it would give the population a 60% chance of recovery by 2070. The South Atlantic stock should also have a non-retention policy to stop them from following a similar trajectory to the North Atlantic stock. It truly is make or break for makos.

Management fell short at ICCAT in 2017 but a binding recommendation was adopted requiring live release in the North Atlantic - however this alone doesn't stop overfishing or allow rebuilding. In 2019, despite a proposal put forward by Senegal (with support from 15 additional countries) for a total ban on retention of North Atlantic Shortfin Makos, it was disappointingly scuppered by weaker proposals from the EU and the US.


ICCAT Parties will meet at a special intersessional meeting in July 2020 to continue talks on mako. We will keep pressure on Parties, particularly the EU, to implement vital protections for this vulnerable species.

The next annual meeting of the Commission is in Antalya, Turkey in November 2020.


Complementary fishing limits and measures to reduce incidental catch are key to effective species conservation.

Both the Shortfin and Longfin Mako were listed on CITES Appendix II in 2019, meaning that countries must track exports, which includes high-seas take, as well as demonstrate that internationally traded products from these species are legally sourced from sustainable fisheries.

Nations wishing to trade CITES listed species across international borders must prove sustainability with a Non-Detriment Finding (NDF). Given the state of Atlantic populations, they simply cannot be considered sustainable at this time.

The Shark Trust’s overarching conservation goals are reflected in our work at RFMOS:

  1. SPECIES PROTECTION - protection of endangered species through legislation and effective conservation action;

  2. SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES MANAGEMENT - fisheries managed for sustainability to prevent declines in non-threatened species;

  3. RESPONSIBLE TRADE - promoting responsible trade and reducing demand for non-sustainable shark products (see CITES).

Related Links:

► Factsheets: Make or Break for Makos 2019 (pdf) | ICCAT 2019 - The Global Ocean Movement & Mako Sharks

► Press Release: EU and US Prevent Vital Protections for Endangered Mako Sharks