Pacific Shortfin Mako Shark

Pacific Shortfin Mako Shark

Isurus oxyrinchus


    Mako Shark, Blue Pointer, Bonito Shark, Pacific Mako Shark


    U.S. wild-caught from California and Hawaii



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Two shortfin mako sharks. Mako sharks are fast-moving and streamlined. They propel themselves through the water with short strokes of their thick, powerful tails. Photo: Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries Service.

Two shortfin mako sharks. Mako sharks are fast-moving and streamlined. They propel themselves through the water with short strokes of their thick, powerful tails. Photo: Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries Service.


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. Shortfin mako 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, and occasionally in the Pacific Ocean. A small drift gillnet fishery targets swordfish and thresher sharks off California, and occasionally catches shortfin mako sharks as well. Because of their high market value, shortfin mako sharks are often retained in the fisheries that incidentally catch sharks. However, sharks do not make up a large portion of U.S. commercial fish harvest on the West Coast. U.S. fishermen also catch shortfin mako in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico (see Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark).

Sharks harvested off the U.S. West Coast are primarily harvested for their meat, rather than their fins. Also, 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. The United States is a leader in shark conservation, and NOAA Fisheries works to sustainably manage shark populations by conducting research, assessing stocks, working with U.S. fishermen, and implementing regulations.

Looking Ahead

Shortfin mako sharks, like many shark species, are especially vulnerable to overfishing because they take many years to mature and have relatively few young at a time. Recovery from overharvest can take years or decades. Sharks require special attention — NOAA Fisheries is conducting research, implementing restrictions, working with fishermen domestically, and pursuing conservation of shark species worldwide to ensure that shark populations are sustainable and that overfished populations recover.



Shortfin mako sharks live near the surface in tropical and temperate oceans around the world. In the eastern Pacific Ocean, they’re found from the Columbia River to Chile. Off the West Coast, they’re most common off California. In the Indo-Pacific, shortfin mako sharks are found from East Africa and the Red Sea to Hawaii. Juveniles are most common in coastal waters, and adults are primarily found offshore. Shortfin makos are a highly migratory species, capable of swimming long distances across entire oceans.



Shortfin mako sharks grow slowly, up to 12 feet long, and live a long time, up to 30 years. The maximum reported size for mako sharks off the U.S. West Coast is about 11.5 feet; the average size is 6 to 7 feet. Compared to other marine fish, sharks have very low reproductive rates. They’re not able to reproduce until late in life, usually around 8 years old (males) and 20 years old (females). Shortfin mako sharks have a 3-year reproductive cycle, including a gestation period of approximately 15 to 18 months. Eggs are fertilized internally and develop inside of the mother. They 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. Only a small number of shortfin mako litters have been examined by scientists and between 4 and 25 pups have been observed.

Shortfin makos are aggressive predators. They feed near the top of the food chain, mainly on squid and pelagic fish including swordfish, tuna, and other sharks. They have few predators – larger sharks and killer whales sometimes prey on younger, smaller shortfin makos. 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. Their teeth are conical and pointy and protrude forward from the jaw making them visible even when the mouth is closed. Shortfin mako sharks are easily confused with the longfin mako (Isurus paucus). As the name suggests, longfin makos 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 rather than white).



Scientists have not assessed shortfin mako shark in the Pacific due to a lack of resources, data, and international coordination.



Scientists have not assessed shortfin mako shark in the Pacific, so the population status is unknown.



Researchers at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center study Pacific sharks to learn more about their biology, distribution, movements, stock structure, and status, as well as their potential vulnerability to fishing pressure. They share this information with international, national, and regional fisheries conservation and management bodies charged with the conservation and sustainable management of pelagic sharks and other highly migratory species.

In 2012, scientists released results of a study analyzing the stomach contents of shortfin mako, blue, and common thresher sharks in the California Current. The new information should help researchers characterize differences among the species as well as their roles in the ecosystem.


Harvesting shortfin mako shark

Shortfin makos are harvested by many nations in subtropical or temperate waters around the world. U.S. fishermen harvest shortfin makos with drift gillnets off the West Coast, and occasionally catch them incidentally in longline fisheries for swordfish off Hawaii. A gillnet is a panel of netting suspended vertically in the water by floats, with weights along the bottom, that fish become entangled in. Drift gillnet gear is anchored to a vessel, and drifts along with the current. Pelagic longline gear consists of a main horizontal line with shorter lines with baited hooks attached to it. The gear is used at various depths and at different times of day, depending on the species being targeted. The gear is set shallower (roughly 100 meters or less in depth) to target swordfish.

Drift gillnetters can incidentally catch other species, mainly ocean sunfish and blue sharks. Protected species, such as marine mammals and sea turtles can become entangled in gillnets. Time/area closures limit when and where drift gillnetters can fish to reduce bycatch. Fishermen must use acoustic pingers (devices that emit high-pitched noises to deter marine mammals) and net extenders (to increase minimum fishing depth) on drift gillnet gear to protect marine mammals.

Off Hawaii, management restricts the type of longline fishing gear that fishermen can use and prohibits fishing in certain areas to minimize impacts to sharks, marlins, and protected species. Longline gear can entangle sea turtles and several species of seabirds, but regulations – including special gear requirements and safe handling techniques – have reduced these impacts. Scientists and managers continue to monitor bycatch in these fisheries through logbook and vessel observer programs. U.S. efforts to reduce bycatch on all fronts are ongoing; however, some international fisheries harvesting mako sharks do not employ comparable strategies to reduce bycatch.



Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific and Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Highly migratory species such as shortfin mako sharks travel throughout large areas of the Pacific and are harvested by several nations. Effective conservation and management of this resource and its fisheries are not possible without international cooperation and strong domestic fishery management. Currently, there are no international management measures specific to Pacific shortfin makos; however, international measures have been adopted in the Pacific Ocean to combat the practice of shark finning. In addition, the United States participates in bilateral meetings on shark management with Japan, Spain, Taiwan, the European Union, Canada, China, and Mexico, among others. The United States is also an active member of the two international tuna fisheries management organizations operating in the Pacific – the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission disclaimer and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. disclaimer Both organizations have passed resolutions on shark conservation and management to combat the practice of shark finning and encourage further research and periodic stock assessment efforts for sharks.

In the United States, federal law prohibits shark finning, a process of removing shark fins at sea and discarding the rest of the shark. This practice has been prohibited by federal law since 2000, but shark conservation was further strengthened in 2010 when Congress passed the Shark Conservation Act. The Shark Conservation Act requires that all sharks, with the exception of smooth dogfish (Mustelus canis), be brought to shore with their fins naturally attached.

Current management:

West Coast: Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species

  • Commercial fishermen must have a permit to fish for highly migratory species and must maintain logbooks documenting their catch.
  • Two areas are closed seasonally to drift gillnetters to protect endangered leatherback and loggerhead turtles.
  • Annual harvest guidelines for shortfin makos (a harvest guideline is a general objective for how much can be caught every year).

Pacific Islands: Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pacific Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region

  • Commercial fishermen must have a permit and must maintain logbooks documenting their catch. A limited number of permits are available for the Hawaii longline fishery to control the number of vessels active in the fishery.
  • Longline gear restrictions and operational requirements to minimize bycatch.
  • Longlines are prohibited in certain areas to protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals, reduce gear conflicts, and prevent localized depletion (when a large quantity of fish are removed from an area); longline vessels must have Vessel Monitoring Systems (satellite transponders that provide real-time position updates and track vessel movements) installed to enforce area closures.
  • Hawaii-based longline vessels must carry onboard observers when requested by NOAA Fisheries. There is 100 percent coverage in the shallow-set fishery targeting swordfish and 20 percent coverage in the deep-set fishery targeting tunas.
  • Mandatory annual protected species workshops for all longline vessel owners and operators.

Annual Harvest

The majority (about 90 percent) of U.S. commercial harvest of shortfin makos comes from the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Recent U.S. Pacific landings have been less than 100 metric tons per year, and in 2012 landings totaled 26.3 metric tons.



The 2012 landings of Pacific short fin mako were worth $51,802.



Shortfin makos are considered one of the great game fish of the world and are a popular catch in shark tournaments. Off the West Coast, recreational charter vessel operators must keep logbooks documenting their catch and there is a limit on the number of mako sharks recreational fishermen can catch.



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 skin feels like sandpaper and swordfish skin is smooth. The meat looks 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 is 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 it smells like ammonia, don’t buy it.



Fresh from August to January



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 mg

Pacific Shortfin Mako Shark Table of Nutrition