Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark

Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark Image

Isurus oxyrinchus


    Mako Shark, Blue Pointer, Bonito Shark, Atlantic Mako Shark


    U.S. wild-caught from New England to Louisiana



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Shortfin mako shark

Shortfin mako sharks are fast-moving and streamlined. They propel themselves through the water with short strokes of their thick, powerful tails.


There are two species of mako shark: shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) and longfin mako (I. paucus). Shortfin mako is the more common of the two and is the commercially important species. In fact, U.S. fishermen are prohibited from harvesting longfin mako in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean due to their current depleted population levels.

Shortfin mako shark is the most popular species of shark to eat. They’re caught by several nations in subtropical and temperate waters around the world. In the United States, they’re mainly harvested incidentally in longline fisheries for swordfish and tuna in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Because of their high market value, shortfin mako sharks are usually the only sharks retained in the pelagic longline fisheries that incidentally catch sharks. Nevertheless, U.S. harvest of Atlantic shortfin mako shark is only around 5 percent of the overall harvest of this species in the North Atlantic, and management limits domestic harvests through annual quotas. Conservationists and foodies take note - a key federal law prohibits the practice of "shark finning," where valuable shark fins are removed and the remainder of the shark is discarded at sea. In the U.S. Atlantic shark fisheries, sharks must be landed with their fins naturally attached to the rest of their body.

Looking Ahead

NOAA Fisheries encourages commercial and recreational fishermen to safely release Atlantic shortfin mako sharks alive and report the releases to NOAA to post on an online map. NOAA Fisheries also developed an app for Android phones that allows you to report live releases of shortfin mako sharks in real time. This program is designed to prevent overfishing of this species in the Atlantic Ocean and maintain a healthy shortfin mako population for future generations.



Shortfin mako sharks are found in tropical and temperate seas around the world. Off the East Coast, they’re found from New England to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico. Mako sharks are a highly migratory species, often traveling over entire oceans.

Shortfin mako shark is a pelagic species—its habitat ranges widely in the upper zones of the oceans. Juveniles are common in coastal waters, from the low-tide line to the edge of the continental shelf in oceans. Adults are primarily found offshore.



Shortfin mako sharks grow slowly, up to 12 feet long, and they live a long time, around 11½ years. They’re not able to reproduce until late in life, usually between 4 and 6 years old. Compared to other marine fish, sharks have very low reproductive rates. Shortfin mako sharks have a 2-year reproductive cycle and a gestation period of approximately 12 months. They mate from late winter to mid-spring. Eggs are fertilized internally and develop inside of the mother. Females bear live young (pups). The pups are fully developed and fairly large when they’re born, which reduces the number of potential predators and enhances their chances of survival. Shorftin mako sharks have between 12 and 20 pups (although scientists have only examined a handful of litters).

Shortfin makos provide a valuable balance to the marine ecosystem. They’re aggressive predators feeding near the top of the food web, mainly on fishes such as bluefish, swordfish, tuna, and other sharks. They have few predators – larger sharks from a variety of species sometimes prey on younger, smaller shortfin mako sharks. Humans are one of the few species that eat sharks.



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 is easily confused with the longfin mako (Isurus paucus). As longfin mako’s name suggests, they have much longer pectoral fins. They also have larger eyes than shortfin makos, and the area on their snout is darker (dusky or bluish-black compared to white).



NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center staff work with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas disclaimer to assess the status of shortfin makos in the Atlantic. They completed the most recent assessment in 2012.



Previously, shortfin mako populations were believed to have been susceptible to overfishing. High levels of uncertainty pertaining to catch estimates and a lack of important biological data have made stock status determinations difficult for this species. However, according to the latest stock assessment (2012) Atlantic shortfin mako stocks do not appear to be overfished, and overfishing is not occurring.



Although we don’t know as much as about sharks as other marine animals, a boatload of research is helping to fill in the blanks. Scientists from NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California, are working together on a comprehensive aging and validation study for shortfin mako. Students and scientists at the University of Rhode Island are examining the biology and population dynamics of the shortfin mako in the North Atlantic. They’re researching age, growth, reproductive parameters, and the predator-prey relationships between shortfin mako and bluefish, its primary prey. They also plan to study shortfin migration rates and patterns and survival rates.

NOAA Fisheries also runs the Cooperative Shark Tagging Program to study the life history of Atlantic sharks. Started in 1962, the program involves thousands of recreational and commercial fishermen, scientists, and fisheries observers. Participants tag large coastal and pelagic sharks and record information about the shark (date and location where caught, gear used, and the size and sex of the shark). When fishermen catch previously tagged sharks, they’re asked to record and submit similar information. Between 1962 and 2010, more than 221,000 sharks of 52 species have been tagged and more than 13,000 sharks of 33 species have been recaptured. Data from this program provide valuable information on shark migrations, help increase our understanding of shark biology, and improve management of the resource.


Harvesting Shortfin Mako

Shortfin makos are harvested in subtropical or temperate waters around the world. U.S. fisheries operate in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida and following the Gulf Stream north to New England. Shortfin makos are commercially harvested as bycatch of pelagic longliners fishing for swordfish and tuna, but are also caught in recreational fisheries with rod and reel gear. U.S. fishermen also catch shortfin mako in the Pacific off southern California.



Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management Division and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, a.k.a. ICCAT

With highly migratory species such as shortfin mako sharks, management is complicated. A fish 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 ICCAT, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations disclaimer, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora disclaimer to enhance shark management worldwide. While U.S. fishermen catch less than 5 percent of the overall harvest of shortfin mako in the North Atlantic, NOAA Fisheries continues to take action at the international level to end overfishing of this species.

Current management: Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan includes numerous measures to rebuild or prevent overfishing of Atlantic sharks in commercial and recreational fisheries:

  • Fishermen must have a permit to harvest sharks, and management has limited the number of available permits to control participation in the fishery.
  • There is an annual quota on commercial catch and limits on how much shortfin mako can be caught per fishing trip. The fishing season is generally year-round, but individual shark fisheries close when the majority of their quota is reached.
  • Certain areas are closed to fishing to protect nursery areas, sensitive habitats, and populations. Vessels must carry electronic monitoring systems to track their location and enforce these closures.
  • 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 fishing with pelagic longline gear must complete a workshop on identifying and properly handling and releasing protected species.
  • Shark dealers are required to attend a workshop on identifying Atlantic sharks to help them differentiate species.
  • NOAA Fisheries promotes the live release of shortfin mako sharks in the commercial and recreational fisheries to help prevent overfishing of this species in the Atlantic Ocean and maintain a healthy shortfin mako population for future generations.
  • Last but not least, a federal law prohibits “shark finning,” and in the U.S. Atlantic shark fisheries all sharks must be landed with their fins naturally attached.

Annual Harvest

The majority (about 90%) of U.S. commercial harvest of shortfin mako sharks comes from the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. U.S. commercial fishermen harvested more than 207,000 pounds of Atlantic shortfin mako in 2011.



Shortfin mako sharks are traded commercially, and also are economically important in recreational fisheries through individual angler expenditures, recreational charters, tournaments, and the shoreside businesses that support those activities.



Recreational fishermen fish for shortfin mako shark with rod and reel gear. Shortfin makos are considered one of the great game fish of the world and are a popular catch in shark tournaments.

There are limits on the amount and size of shortfin mako that sport fishermen can catch. NOAA Fisheries also encourages all fishermen to safely release shortfin mako sharks alive to help prevent overfishing of this species in the Atlantic Ocean and maintain a healthy shortfin mako population for future generations. You can track where makos have been released alive on NOAA Fisheries’ live release map. An increasing number of fishing tournaments are also encouraging the live release of sharks to promote conservation. 



Mako shark tastes similar to swordfish – it’s moist and slightly sweet, with a full-bodied, meaty taste. In fact, mako shark is sometimes mislabeled as swordfish. To distinguish the two, check the skin; mako feels like sandpaper, while swordfish is smooth. The meat looks very similar as well, but it lacks the whorls of a swordfish steak. Fresh, raw mako is soft and ivory-pink or a muddy, reddish color; when cooked it’s ivory white and firm.

Like all sharks, makos carry urea in their bloodstreams. They must be bled immediately and iced to prevent the urea in the tissues from turning to ammonia. If the meat smells like ammonia, don’t buy it. (Seafood Business, 2011) disclaimer



Year-round, with peaks from April through October



Shark is high in protein and low in fat. It is a good source of niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, and phosphorus and a very good source of selenium. Shark may contain amounts of methylmercury in excess of the FDA’s recommended limit for nursing moms, moms-to-be, and young children. For more information, see EPA and FDA advice on what you need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish. disclaimer

Servings 1
Serving Weight 100 g (raw)
Calories 130
Protein 20.98 g
Fat, total 4.51 g
Saturated fatty acids, total 0.925 g
Carbohydrate 0 g
Sugars, total 0 g
Fiber, total dietary 0 g
Cholesterol 51 mg
Selenium 36.5 mcg
Sodium 79 mcg

Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark Table of Nutrition