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With the potential of a complete shutdown of the mako shark fishery looming, local recreational fishing advocates head to Morocco for the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  November 27, 2017
As the U.S. Recreational Commissioner at ICCAT, Ray Bogan (front and center) had a busy time in Marrakech, Morocco during the week of November 20th fighting to assure American anglers sustainable access to shortin makos and bluefin tuna.

The United States and other nations recently finished up a week of tuna, swordfish and shark management discussions at the 2017 annual meeting of International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Marrakech, Morocco.

The good news from overseas is that there’s a bluefin tuna quota increase coming for U.S. fishermen; perhaps even better news is that motions by some ICCAT delegates to shut down the North Atlantic mako shark fishery failed (though an increase in harvest size is forthcoming.)

ICCAT, of which the United States is a member, is an inter-governmental fisheries organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and other highly migratory species in the Atlantic Ocean. In a recent press release from NOAA Fisheries, it was reported that more than 700 delegates representing 47 members gathered to discuss a number of important measures.

One potential measure pushed by hardline environmental groups resulted in a motion made by the Japanese delegation which could’ve completely shut down the shortfin mako fishery along the Atlantic Coast. That initiative was met by strong resistance by the United States.

“The U.S. delegation advocated for measures that conserve shortfin mako, but will also allow for the continuation of shark tournaments and the recreational mako shark fishery,” said Ray Bogan who has been the U.S. Recreational Commissioner at ICCAT since 2016. “The U.S. delegation argued hard for management measures which will actually result in significant conservation gains, and end overfishing of shortfin mako, while allowing industry to survive.”

Advice received in October from a new stock assessment conducted by ICCAT’s scientific committee (SCRS) concluded that the North Atlantic shortfin mako stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. In response, the United States introduced a proposal to end overfishing in 2018 and begin rebuilding the stock with a time horizon that takes into account the biology of this late-maturing species.

The final agreement focuses on measures to reduce fishing mortality and efforts to further strengthen data collection, while protecting opportunities for U.S. recreational and commercial fishermen to retain small amounts of shortfin mako sharks. According to NOAA Fisheries, the agreement also calls for additional scientific advice on biologically important areas and the effectiveness of various mitigation measures in increasing the survivability of shortfin mako sharks, including circle hooks.

“There are significant measures contained in the recommendation that will impact the foreign fleets that are largely responsible for the present stock status,” Bogan said. “The U.S. already has significant regulations on shortfin mako and other species, so the other measures will not be as consequential for U.S. recreational fishermen as they will be for commercial fishermen, particularly those from Europe and Northern Africa.

Bogan did say that a new larger minimum size limit coming for the 2018 shark season will be “tough on our fishermen,” and said additional requirements for offshore fishermen will need to be adopted in the U.S.

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