The Endangered Shortfin Mako Shark
Shortfin Mako Shark
The shortfin mako shark (isurus oxyrinchus) is one of the world's most endangered species. Prized for their tender meat in the largely Asian markets, they are being fished to extinction.
Their fins are prized. A recent report put the wholesale cost of fins at anywhere between $40 and $550 per kilo. Fins used for medicinal purposes have the higher value. Even so, a plate of shark fin soup can set you back $100 in restaurants in Hong Kong.
There have been many reports of this shark being caught at sea, stripped of its fins and shoved back into the waters to die.
This has got to be exceptionally cruel towards the shortfin mako shark. Without its fins, it cannot swim and protect itself against other predators, and dies a slow painful death at the bottom of the ocean.
Due to its sleek and streamlined design, the mako shark is one of the fastest in the oceans, capable of attaining speeds of up to 30mph. They have been known to leap out of the water as high as 20 feet.
These abilities make them highly desired by anglers who derive fun from hunting them down.
Mako sharks grow to typically 4 metres in length. Adult females don't reproduce until they are 3 metres long. Their pregnancies last 15 - 18 months, before giving birth to 4 - 18 live young, each measuring about 27" in length. The mother then rests for around 18 months before fertilising her next batch of eggs.
Many of the young do not survive to adulthood, due to other predators or, in some cases, being eaten by their own mother if she is hungry enough.
What mako sharks eat
Crustaceans, fish, dolphins, swordfish, tuna, other sharks, rays, marine turtles, squid, anchovies, mackerel and sardines.
They do not eat human beings but there have been 8 reported attacks on humans with 2 fatalities, and more than 20 recorded attacks on boats in the past 100 years.
The Mako shark is normally found in the warmer waters that do not fall below 16C. They live in offshore temperate and tropical seas worldwide.
In the western Atlantic, they can be found from Argentina and the Gulf of Mexico to Brown's Bank off Nova Scotia. They are less common, but not unknown, in Canadian waters. Anywhere there is a source of swordfish, you will find mako sharks who like to feed off them. Swordfish have also been known to feed off smaller and weaker mako sharks, and both like similar conditions.
They are also to be found in the Mediterranean Sea, where they are now on a Critically Endangered list.
A 1995 directive by the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean has banned fisherman from trawling depths great than 100 metres to protect many of the endangered species of shark. Unfortunately, this is not going to be of much help to the mako shark which prefers shallow waters and is rarely found at a depth greater than 150 metres.
Why the Shortfin Mako Shark is Endangered
The shortfin mako shark is on the endangered species list created by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and at this date (2011) is officially listed as At Risk/Threatened. The exact numbers of shortfin mako shark in the world's waters are currently unknown.
They, like all sharks, are being fished to extinction where their fins are prized in the largely Asian marketplace.
Several countries have agreed to fishing bans, but have failed to regulate their agreements, and because of this no prosecutions are being brought against perpetrators who openly flaunt the rulings.
Shark finning is prohibited by federal law in the Atlantic, Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico in US coastal waters, as well as in parts of the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and UK coastal waters, but still it continues.
Shark meat is almost worthless, and live sharks are ruthlessly de-finned and shoved overboard to drown in the seas from which they were caught. Without their fins they are defenceless against predators as they cannot move and navigate their way about.
China is responsible for buying 95% of the world's sharks' fins, for banquets serving shark's fin soup, which is considered a delicacy.
China refuses to introduce measures to protect the world's sharks population which is dropping at an alarming rate.
As more and more Chinese people become financially rich due to China's expanding trade, the greater the risk of complete extinction of the shark.
Shark's fin soup is not even especially pleasant to eat; it is served more as a status symbol then anything else. Costing $40 for a single plate, it tells the guests that the host is of high-standing.
California recently banned Chinese restaurants based in the state of California from serving shark's fin soup.
It would be helpful if more states and countries followed suit.