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Pacific Shortfin Mako Shark

Isurus oxyrinchus

Pacific Shortfin Mako Shark

Also Known As

  • Mako shark
  • Blue pointer
  • Bonito shark
  • Pacific mako shark

U.S. wild-caught Pacific shortfin mako shark is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

Population

The species has not been assessed in the Pacific. Scientists are studying Pacific sharks to learn more about them.

Fishing Rate

The species has not been assessed in the Pacific. Managers set a harvest guideline each year to control fishing effort.

Habitat Impacts

Gear used to catch shortfin mako does not contact the ocean floor, so there is no impact to habitat.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Fresh from August to January.

  • Source

    U.S. wild-caught from California and Hawaii.

  • Taste

    Sweet with a full-bodied, meaty taste.

  • Texture

    Soft when raw, firm once cooked.

  • Color

    Fresh, raw meat is an ivory-pink or muddy, reddish color. When cooked it is ivory white.

  • Health Benefits

    High in protein and low in fat, and a good source of niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, phosphorous, and selenium. More information on health and seafood.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the Pacific shortfin mako shark fishery on the West Coast.
  • Managed under the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species:
    • Permits are required to fish for highly migratory species, including shortfin mako sharks, and fishermen must maintain logbooks documenting their catch.
    • Annual commercial harvest guidelines (a general objective for how much can be caught).
    • Closed areas protect endangered turtles.
    • Fishermen are required to take a training course on safe handling and release of protected species.
    • Mandatory placement (about 20 percent coverage) of at-sea observers on commercial drift gillnet vessels to monitor catch, bycatch, and fishing effort.
    • Fishing times and areas are tightly managed to reduce the risk of catching protected species, such as sea turtles, whales, and dolphins. 
  • NOAA Fisheries and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council manage the Pacific shortfin mako shark fishery in the Pacific Islands.
  • Managed under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for the Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific:
    • Entry to this fishery is limited to a maximum of 164 vessels. 
    • Permits and logbooks are required. 
    • Observers are required on all Hawaii-based longline vessels. 
    • NOAA Fisheries vessel monitoring system (VMS) program requires longline boats to be equipped with a satellite transponder that provides real-time vessel position updates and tracks vessel movements.
    • Longlines are prohibited in certain areas to protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals and reduce the potential for gear conflicts and localized stock depletion. 
    • Vessels operating under longline general permits must carry special gear to release incidentally hooked or entangled sea turtles.  
    • There are no management measures specific to Pacific shortfin mako shark, because in the Western Pacific they’re only harvested incidentally in the longline fishery for swordfish. 
  • The Shark Conservation Act requires that all sharks, with one exception, be brought to shore with their fins naturally attached.
  • Management of highly migratory species, like mako sharks, is complicated because the species migrate thousands of miles across international boundaries and are fished by many nations. 

Harvest

  • In 2015, commercial landings of Pacific shortfin mako totaled 43,472 pounds and were valued at $39,879. 
  • Gear types and bycatch:
    • Harvested with drift gillnets off the West Coast and occasionally caught incidentally in longline fisheries for swordfish off Hawaii. 
    • Drift gillnets can incidentally catch other species, such as ocean sunfish and blue sharks.
    • Protected species, such as sperm whales and sea turtles, may be caught as bycatch in drift gillnet fisheries.
    • Managers limit where and when drift gillnet fishermen can fish to help prevent bycatch. Logbooks and observer programs help monitor bycatch. 
    • The California thresher shark gillnet fishery is a Category I fishery, meaning it has frequent incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals. Mako sharks may be caught in this fishery.
    • Fishermen must use acoustic 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, gear restrictions and area closures help minimize impacts to sharks, marlins, and protected species that can be caught in longline gear. 
    • Safe handling techniques help reduce impacts on sea turtles and seabirds caught in the longline fishery in Hawaii. 
    • Scientists and managers continue to monitor bycatch in these fisheries through logbooks and vessel observer programs.  
  • Shortfin mako are considered one of the great game fish of the world and are a popular catch in shark tournaments. 
  • 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.

The Science

Population Status

  • Scientists have not assessed shortfin mako sharks in the Pacific, so the population status and fishing rate are unknown. 

Location

  • In the eastern Pacific, they’re found from the Columbia River to Chile. 
  • Off the West Coast, they’re most common off California. 
  • In the Indo-Pacific, they are found from East Africa and the Red Sea to Hawaii. 

Habitat

  • Shortfin mako sharks live near the surface in tropical and temperate oceans. 
  • Juveniles are common in coastal waters, and adults are primarily found offshore.  
  • They are highly migratory and capable of swimming long distances across entire oceans. 

Physical Description

  • Shortfin mako sharks have 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 their mouth is closed. 
  • They can be easily confused with the longfin mako shark (Isurus paucus).

Biology

  • Shortfin mako sharks grow slowly and can grow up to 12 feet, although average size is 6 to 7 feet.
  • They have a long lifespan, and can live up to 30 years. 
  • They do not reproduce until late in life, when males are about 8 years old and females are around 20 years old. 
  • They have a 3-year reproductive cycle, including a 15- to 18-month gestation period. 
  • Eggs are fertilized internally, and develop inside the mother. Pups are born alive, and are fairly large when born.
  • They’re aggressive predators and feed near the top of the food chain on squid and pelagic fish (including swordfish, tuna, and other sharks). 
  • They have very few predators. Larger sharks and killer whales sometimes prey on younger, smaller shortfin makos.

Research

Last updated: 03/02/2018