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.


WHY ARE SHARKS RELEVANT?

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 is currently adopting new Convention text which will, in part, formally incorporate sharks and provide more comprehensive management options.


WHEN IS THE NEXT MEETING?

ICCAT has an annual meeting each autumn, with additional intersessional meetings, stock assessments and working groups throughout the year. The 26th Regular Meeting of ICCAT is being held 18–25 November 2019 in Palma, Spain.


WHAT ARE OUR ASKS?

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

  • Implement a non-retention policy for Shortfin Makos

  • Agree science-based international fishing limits for Blue Sharks

  • Tighten the existing shark finning regulation to fins attached, banning removal of shark fins at sea

Our main focus is to make 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.


THE PROCESS

Proposals are generally agreed by consensus, and so 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 aren’t strictly included in the Convention text, it's not yet possible for this to happen.


NO LIMITS? CAMPAIGN

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.

The Blue Shark has a more conservative life history strategy than the Shortfin Mako - reproducing more frequently and with larger litters (35–135 pups) after a 9–12 month gestation period. Whereas the Shortfin Mako only reproduces every 2–3 years, with 4–25 pups following a 15–18 month gestation period.


MAKE OR BREAK FOR MAKOS

Management is required for these highly migratory, vulnerable species on an international scale through RFMOs. At ICCAT 2016, small steps were taken towards establishing limits on the North Atlantic Blue Shark population – but there's still a long way to go.

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. Management fell short at ICCAT in 2017 but live release in the North Atlantic is now required. However this alone does not stop overfishing or allow rebuilding.

ICCAT scientists have 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'd 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.


EFFECTIVE SHARK CONSERVATION

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 and 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: Shortfin Mako (pdf) | ICCAT 2019 - The Global Ocean Movement & Mako Sharks

► Press Release: EU Holds the Cards for Endangered Atlantic Sharks