Minimum catch size proposal for mako sharks dropped

A minimum catch size for the popular game fish, mako sharks, has been abandoned.
A minimum catch size for the popular game fish, mako sharks, has been abandoned.

A proposal for a minimum catch size for mako sharks has been dropped after a late swell of opposition to the idea.

The Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) has instead opted to proceed with an awareness and education program to protect the game fish.

The proposal for a 1.2 metre long minimum size was dropped after the state peak recreational fishing body, VR Fish, withdrew its backing when  the initial support by its state council was overtaken by opposition from members.

VFA chief executive Travis Dowling said recent public consultation suggested an education and awareness campaign would do more for juvenile mako sharks and the survival of released mako sharks than imposing a minimum catch size.

VR Fish said it recommended that fishers be encouraged to release small makos under one metre, in lieu of a minimum size limit, and large makos more three metres in total length, when safe and practicable to do so.

The decision was welcomed by recreational fisher Scott Gray of Port Fairy who said it was a more practical outcome than imposing a minimum catch size.

Mr Gray said bringing a 1.2 metre mako shark, which would weigh about 70 kilograms, into a boat to measure it would have been dangerous for fishers.

He said fishers could now make a decision about whether a mako was too small to keep without bringing it into a boat.

This mako shark would have just been legal under the now abandoned minimum catch size proposal.

This mako shark would have just been legal under the now abandoned minimum catch size proposal.

If they thought it was small and juvenile, they could release it but if they wanted to keep it they could do so without penalty, Mr Gray said.

Without a penalty over their heads, they could make a decision to keep a small mako because it was unlikely to survive if released, he said.

“(Without the minimum size) people might spend the day out fishing and they still have the opportunity to keep a fish to eat,” Mr Gray said.

Mr Gray has been outspoken in opposing the minimum catch size, saying there was no data on the state of mako shark fishery that justified the move.

The proposal was initially raised by Xavier Ellul, a 14-year-old Warrnambool angler, to give makos a chance to breed and safeguard the sustainable harvesting of the species.

VR Fish took the proposal, which called for the 1.2 metre minimum size to be measured from the rear most gill slit to the base of the tail fin on any side of the body, to the VFA that held a two-month public consultation on the idea.  

A mako shark

A mako shark

While Victorian recreational fishers have reported good catches of shortfin mako sharks, VR Fish noted the International Union of Threatened Species (IUCN) listed the Indo-west Pacific subpopulation of shortfin makos as ‘Vulnerable’.

Shortfin mako sharks were vulnerable to overfishing due to their life history and low reproductive capacity but VR Fish said it believed the Victorian fishery was in a healthy state. 

Female makos are thought to reach sexual maturity at 18 years of age and at 2.8-3 metres total length.