About the Species
U.S. wild-caught Atlantic shortfin mako shark is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
Significantly below target population levels. An international rebuilding plan is being developed for the stock.
Reduced to end overfishing.
Gear used to harvest Atlantic shortfin mako sharks does not contact the ocean floor and has no impact on habitat.
Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.
- According to the 2017 stock assessment, shortfin mako sharks are overfished and subject to overfishing. Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.
- NOAA Southeast Fishery Science Center staff work with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to assess the status of shortfin mako sharks in the Atlantic.
- Shortfin mako sharks have very pointed snouts and long gill slits.
- They have dark blue/gray backs, light metallic blue sides, and white undersides.
- Shortfin mako sharks are easily confused with longfin makos. Longfin makos have much longer pectoral fins and larger eyes, and the area on their snout is darker.
- Shortfin mako sharks grow slowly, reach up to 13 feet long, and can live to be over 30 years old.
- They are not able to reproduce until about 8 years old (~6 feet) for males and 19 years old (~9 feet) for females. They have a 3-year reproductive cycle and a gestation period of approximately 18 months.
- Mating occurs from summer to fall. Eggs are fertilized internally and develop inside the mother.
- Females bear live pups, which are approximately 2 feet long when born. This large size at birth helps reduce the number of potential predators and enhances the pups’ chance of survival.
- Mean litter size is 12, and up to 30 pups have been reported, though scientists have only examined a handful of litters.
- Shortfin mako sharks are aggressive predators that feed near the top of the food web on marine fishes such as bluefish, swordfish, tuna, marine mammals, and other sharks.
- They have few predators, mainly larger sharks that may prey on smaller shortfin mako sharks.
Where They Live
- Off the East Coast, Atlantic shortfin mako sharks are found from New England to Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas, and in the Caribbean Sea.
- They are highly migratory and can travel across entire oceans.
- NOAA Fisheries, through the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Division, manage the Atlantic shortfin mako shark fishery in the United States.
- Managed under the Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan:
- Permits are required, and only a limited number of permits are available.
- Commercial quotas and limits on how many sharks can be landed per fishing trip.
- Gear restrictions and requirements.
- Fishing season is generally year-round, but individual commercial shark fisheries close when the quota is reached.
- Shark dealers are required to attend Atlantic shark identification workshops to help them better identify shark species.
- Prohibited species—there are more than 20 species of sharks that cannot be landed (e.g., white, dusky, basking, longfin mako, night). Some of these species look similar to the species that can be landed. The recreational shark identification and the prohibited shark identification placards can help with identification.
- The Shark Conservation Act requires that all sharks, with one exception, be brought to shore with their fins naturally attached.
- Compliance guides are available for all commercial and recreational regulations across Atlantic highly migratory species fisheries.
- Highly migratory species, such as mako sharks, have complicated management that requires international cooperation.
- A shark that is off the coast of Florida one week could be caught off the coast of Mexico the next. These resources must be managed both in the United States and at the international level.
- The United States negotiates with Regional Fisheries Management Organizations—including the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora—to enhance shark management worldwide.
- While U.S. fishermen catch approximately 9 percent of the overall harvest of shortfin mako shark in the North Atlantic, NOAA Fisheries continues to take action at the international level to end overfishing of this species.
- Based on the 2017 stock assessment and new ICCAT requirements, NOAA Fisheries implemented regulations to address overfishing.
- Additional regulations require the live release of shortfin mako sharks at haul back and restricts commercial retention to shortfin makos that are dead at haul back.
- Commercial fishery:
- In 2019, commercial landings of Atlantic shortfin mako shark totaled 49,400 pounds and were valued at $56,800, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database. These figures may not match other agency sources of data due to confidential information.
- Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
- Shortfin mako sharks are primarily caught incidentally in longline fisheries targeting swordfish and tuna.
- Commercial retention of shortfin mako sharks is restricted to longline (pelagic and bottom) and gillnet gear.
- Gear used to catch shortfin mako does not impact habitat, because it does not contact the ocean floor.
- NOAA Fisheries has taken the following additional measures to prevent bycatch and sustainably manage this fishery:
- Fishermen are required to use “circle hooks” on pelagic longlines to reduce bycatch of sea turtles. All pelagic longline fishing vessels must also carry safe handling and release gear to help in returning any unintentionally caught protected species to the sea safely.
- Fishermen using longline or gillnet gear must complete a protected species safe handling, release, and identification workshop.
- Certain areas are closed to fishing to protect nursery areas, sensitive habitats, and populations.
- Vessels monitoring systems ensure fishermen are complying with area closures.
- Recreational fishery:
- Fishermen mainly use rod-and-reel gear. Shortfin mako sharks show low levels of post release mortality on rod and reel gear.
- Fishermen must have an Atlantic HMS permit to harvest Atlantic shortfin mako sharks in federal waters.
- Fishermen with an HMS recreational permit with a shark endorsement are required to use non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks when fishing for sharks recreationally, except when fishing with flies or artificial lures, in federal waters.
- There are trip bag limits.
Recreational Fishing Regulations
Commercial Fishing Regulations
Subsistence Fishing Regulations
NOAA Fisheries conducts shark research in the Northeast, studying shark life history and performing long-term monitoring activities essential for stock assessment and management.