Endangered shark at risk of going extinct after UK’s first independent conservation vote blocked by the EU

An endangered shark is at risk of going extinct after the EU blocked the UK’s first independent conservation vote.

The Mako shark, which is the fastest in the world, is facing rapid decline due to being fished despite being endangered.

 Known by fans as "the cheetah of the sea", it can reach speeds of up to 43mph and is often seen jumping at dizzying heights from the sea to look for prey. The athletic animal has won admirers including Ernest Hemingway, who detailed an encounter with the Mako shark in The Old Man And The Sea.

The shark has declined by 99.99 per cent since the 19th century as it is is sought for meat, fins, and sport. Slow growth makes them exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing. Makos are fished by many nations around the globe yet not subject to international fishing quotas. 

Ministers have said they are frustrated after a motion by the UK, Canada and Senegal to ban the fishing of the sharks was voted down by the EU and the US.

Lord Goldsmith, the International Environment Minister, told The Telegraph: “It was a very disappointing outcome, but as a newly independent nation now able to speak in these global forums in our own right, we will continue to make the case for greater protection of endangered species – on land and in the ocean.”

The EU is the biggest culprit when it comes to fishing the creature; boats mostly from Portugal and Spain are responsible 65 per cent of all reported catches of shortfin makos in the North Atlantic.

The vote took place at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Canada, Senegal, and — in their first official act as an independent ICCAT Party —  the United Kingdom proposed a ban on retention of seriously overfished North Atlantic shortfin makos, as ICCAT scientists have long advised. 

Scientists from the Shark Trust, a UK charity which has been working with ministers on this issue, have warned that the species could take five decades to be brought back from the brink of extinction, even if fishing were to cease immediately.

“North Atlantic mako depletion remains among the world’s most pressing shark conservation crises, yet the EU and US put short-term fishing interests above all else and ruined a golden opportunity for agreeing a clear and simple remedy,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust.

“The repeated obstruction of vital, science-based protections allows top mako fishing countries – Spain, Morocco, and Portugal — to continue to fish these endangered sharks, essentially without limit, and drive valuable populations toward collapse.”

 Shannon Arnold, Senior Marine Program Coordinator for Ecology Action Centre added: “Canada, Senegal, and the UK are today’s emerging shark champions. We urge all ICCAT Parties to follow their lead, before it’s too late.”

The UK is considering further proposals to improve marine conservation once the Brexit transition period is over. One such policy is the protection of the bluefin tuna in our waters, which is endangered but currently fished by Spanish and French vessels. 

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