navigation

Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark

Isurus oxyrinchus

Illustration of an Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark

Also Known As

  • Mako shark
  • Blue pointer
  • Bonito shark
  • Atlantic mako shark

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.

Population

Significantly below target population levels. A domestic rebuilding plan is being developed for the stock.

Fishing Rate

Reduced to end overfishing.

Habitat Impacts

Gear used to harvest Atlantic shortfin mako does not contact the ocean floor and has no impact on habitat.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Year-round, with peaks from April through October.

  • Source

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

  • Taste

    Slightly sweet, with a full-bodied, meaty flavor.

  • Texture

    Raw meat is soft, and cooked meat is firm. 

  • Color

    Fresh raw mako is ivory-pink or a muddy reddish color. When cooked it is ivory white.

  • Health Benefits

    Mako is high in protein, low in fat, and a good source of niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, phosphorus, and selenium. More information on health and seafood.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • NOAA Fisheries, through the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Division, manage the Atlantic shortfin mako 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.
  • Based on the 2017 stock assessment and new ICCAT requirements, NOAA Fisheries is working on a suite of regulations to address overfishing. NOAA Fisheries is urging all fishermen, commercial and recreational, to adopt voluntary measures until regulations are implemented.

Harvest

  • Commercial fishery:
    • In 2016, commercial landings of Atlantic shortfin mako shark totaled 160,829 pounds and were valued at $348,462.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Shortfin makos are primarily caught incidentally in longline fisheries targeting swordfish and tuna. 
    • Gear used to catch shortfin mako does not impact habitat since 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.
    • There are trip bag limits.

The Science

Location

  • Off the East Coast, Atlantic shortfin mako sharks are found from New England to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • They are highly migratory and can travel over entire oceans.

Habitat

  • Shortfin mako sharks are a pelagic species. Their 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. Adults are primarily found offshore. 

Physical Description

  • 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. 

Biology

  • Shortfin mako sharks grow slowly and can reach up to 12 feet long and can live to be 11 ½ years old.
  • They are not able to reproduce until about 4 to 6 years old. They have a 2-year reproductive cycle and a gestation period of approximately 12 months.
  • Mating occurs from late winter to mid-spring. Eggs are fertilized internally and develop inside the mother. 
  • Females bear live pups, which are fairly large when born. This large size at birth helps reduce the number of potential predators and enhances the pups’ chance of survival. 
  • Litters have between 12 and 20 pups, 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, and other sharks.   
  • They have few predators, mainly larger sharks that may prey on smaller shortfin mako sharks.

Research

  • 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).
  • NOAA Fisheries encourages commercial and recreational fishermen to safely release Atlantic shortfin mako sharks to help prevent overfishing. Fishermen can report catching and releasing an Atlantic shortfin mako shark using the Release Mako smartphone app.

Last updated: 09/05/2018