U.S. fishermen must release any shortfin mako sharks they catch under a July 5 order from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The zero-retention rule conforms with management measures adopted in 2021 by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. The U.S. is a member of the trans-Atlantic management group, and the NMFS final rule applies to U.S. commercial and recreational highly migratory species fisheries.

The final rule came a few days after environmental groups notified NMFS that they would take the agency to federal court if zero retention was not imposed.

“The shortfin mako shark is the world’s fastest-swimming shark, but it can’t outrace the threat of extinction,” said Jane Davenport, a senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife in a June 28 statement. “The government must follow the science and provide much-needed federal protections as quickly as possible. This will demonstrate America’s leadership in fisheries and ocean wildlife conservation both at home and on the world stage.”

The group Defenders of Wildlife petitioned NMFS in early 2021 to have makos listed as an endangered species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature put shortfin mako on its “Red List of Threatened Species” in 2019.

Some assessments suggest that overfished shortfin mako stocks in the Atlantic may not recover for 50 years.

The closure will affect highly migratory species fisheries like commercial longlining and recreational tournaments, where mako sharks are prized quarry for their speed and strength.

In 2021 ICCAT voted for member nations to impose a two-year ban on retaining, selling or landing North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks.

“To comply with this rule, commercial and recreational fishermen (including those fishing in tournaments or on for-hire vessels) with HMS permits must release any shortfin mako sharks captured while the retention limit is zero, whether the shark is dead or alive at haulback,” according to notices from NMFS.

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