Species Profile

Shortfin Mako Atlantic population

Scientific Name: Isurus oxyrinchus
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
Range: Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Atlantic Ocean
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2017
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status

Individuals of this species may be protected under Schedule 1 under another name; for more information see Schedule 1, the A-Z Species List, or if applicable, the Related Species table below.

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Image of Shortfin Mako

Information about this species

Shortfin Mako The shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) is one of five species in the family commonly known as mackerel sharks which includes the great white shark and basking shark. The mako shark is described as spindle shaped, deep blue to purple above and white below, with a conical head, sharply pointed snout and crescent shaped caudal fin. The u-shaped mouth has large sharp teeth that protrude outside of the mouth even when closed. It can reach a maximum length of over 4 m. Distribution Shortfin mako are found around the world from temperate to tropical waters. In the northwest Atlantic they have been found both inshore and offshore, from Bermuda to the waters east of Newfoundland. In Canadian waters where they are considered at the edge of their range, they have been recorded from the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, along the Scotian Shelf and down to Georges Bank. Tagging studies indicate that shortfin makos are highly migratory with distribution apparently dependent on water temperatures which they prefer between 17 and 22o C. They migrate to the Atlantic coast of Canada generally in the late summer and fall where they are usually associated with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Habitat They are extremely adaptable and able to withstand significant changes in temperature as well as changes in food availability over its wide range. Shortfin mako feed primarily on other fishes including tuna, mackerel, bluefish and swordfish, but may also eat marine mammals. Biology Unlike most other sharks, mackerel sharks are able to regulate their body temperatures which the shortfin mako, in particular, maintains at 1 to 10o C above its surrounding water temperature. This allows the shortfin mako (one of the fastest sharks in the world) to sustain its high swimming speeds when migrating through colder, deeper waters.Females mature at lengths of 2.7 to 3 m (corresponding to an age of about 17 years) and give birth to a litter size of 4 to 25 pups after a gestation period of approximately 15 to 18 months. Pups are approximately 70 cm at birth. Although males mature slightly at a slightly smaller length of 2 to 2.2 m, their age of maturity is much lower at 7 to 9 years. The minimum lifespan has been estimated at 24 years with a maximum life expectancy of up to 45 years. Threats The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has identified fishing and pelagic longlining in particular, as being the most significant threat to the shortfin mako. There are no fishery-independent abundance estimates for this species and the largely unmonitored longlining effort in international waters increases the uncertainty in abundance trends. There is no directed fishery for shortfin mako in Atlantic Canada, but it is caught as bycatch in other pelagic fisheries for swordfish, shark and tuna. Studies of bycatch in Atlantic Canadian waters indicate that shortfin mako make up 2 to 3% of the total weight of the pelagic longline fishery for swordfish. Because the meat is highly prized, this bycatch is rarely discarded at sea. International studies based on American and Japanese longline data indicate catch rate declines of 40 to 50 % for shortfin mako. While these declines have not been observed in Atlantic Canadian waters, preliminary studies do indicate a recent decline in the abundance of larger individuals. Shortfin makos are also sought after by sport fishers who value them for their “fighting” ability as well as their edible flesh.Existing Protection Shortfin makos are managed under the Canadian Atlantic Pelagic Shark Integrated Fisheries Management Plan which allows for an unrestricted bycatch along with 100% dockside monitoring. The recreational shark fishery is “catch and release” only except in the case of a fishing derby when carcasses may be kept for scientific purposes. Also, the practise of “finning”, (removing and keeping the fins to sell while discarding the carcasses) has been prohibited in all Canadian waters since 1994.



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

5 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Shortfin Mako (2006)

    As a large (maximum length 4.2 m), relatively late-maturing (7-8 yrs) pelagic shark, the species has life-history characteristics making it particularly susceptible to increased mortality from all sources, including human activities.  The species is circumglobal in temperate and tropical waters. Individuals found in Atlantic Canada are considered part of a larger North Atlantic population. There does not appear to be any reason to assume that the Canadian Atlantic "population" is demographically or genetically independent from the larger Atlantic population, so the status of the species in Atlantic Canada should reflect the status throughout the North Atlantic.  Although there is no decline in an indicator of status for the portion of the species that is in Atlantic Canada, two analyses suggest recent declines in the North Atlantic as a whole (40% 1986-2001; 50% 1971-2003). The main causes of the species' decline (mortality due to bycatch in longline and other fisheries) are understood and potentially reversible, but these sources of mortality have not been adequately reduced.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2006 (2006)

    2006 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Legal Listing Consultation Workbook for the Atlantic populations of Blue Shark, Shortfin Mako and White Shark (2007)

    Your opinion is being sought to assist the government of Canada in making an informed decision on whether to add the Blue Shark (Atlantic population), Shortfin Mako (Atlantic population) and White Shark (Atlantic population) to Schedule 1 (the List of Wildlife Species at Risk) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Your input on the impacts of adding these species to the List is important. This workbook has been developed to give you an opportunity to provide Fisheries and Oceans Canada with your feedback, advice, and other comments regarding adding these species to Schedule 1 of SARA (Schedule 1 identifies which species are legally protected under SARA).