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Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark - Frequently Asked Questions

Am I required to release shortfin mako sharks?

Recreational and commercial fishermen may retain shortfin mako sharks specified by the recreational size and bag, and commercial bag limits (see below). However, we encourage, through the NOAA Fisheries Shortfin Mako Live Release Website, commercial and recreational fishermen to release shortfin mako sharks that come to the vessel alive in order to decrease fishing mortality and maintain the healthy shortfin mako shark population. Similarly, we encourage recreational fishermen to practice the live release of sharks and releasing sharks where the angler may not be sure of the species identification. Releasing sharks helps maintain or rebuild shark populations and also ensures that you do not land a prohibited species.

What are the recreational size and bag limits for shortfin mako sharks?

Vessels that hold an HMS Angling or Charter/Headboat permit may recreationally retain 1 shark greater than 54 inches fork length per trip. This shark could be a shortfin mako shark or other species. Although anglers can legally retain a 54 inch shortfin mako shark, both male and female shortfin mako sharks reach sexual maturity at sizes larger than 54 inches fork length (73 and 108 in fork length, respectively). This is also true of other sharks such as hammerhead, porbeagle, thresher, and blue sharks. Therefore, keeping a shortfin mako shark that is smaller than its size-at-maturity means that it most likely didn't get a chance to reproduce and contribute to the shortfin mako shark population. Find out more information under What's Legal.

What are the commercial size and bag limits for shortfin mako sharks?

There is no shortfin mako shark trip limit for commercial vessels that hold a Federal Atlantic Directed shark limited access permit. Commercial vessels that hold a Federal Atlantic Incidental shark limited access permit can keep up to a total of 16 pelagic or small coastal sharks (all species combined), meaning they could retain a maximum of 16 shortfin mako sharks if no other pelagic or small coastal sharks were retained. There is no commercial minimum size limit for shortfin mako sharks. Find out more about shortfin mako sizes under What's Legal.

How can I identify a shortfin mako shark?

The shortfin mako shark has a conical pointed snout, and long smooth-edged teeth. Its coloration is deep blue above, soft metallic blue on the sides, and white along the underside of the snout, mouth, and body. It has one caudal keel, and the first dorsal fin originates behind the trailing edge of the pectoral fins. Shortfin mako sharks in the Atlantic could be confused with other pelagic sharks like the longfin mako and porbeagle or with the white shark. The following are some key characteristics that will help you tell the difference between some sharks that shortfin makos could be confused with.

White: White sharks have distinctive large triangular serrated teeth. Their snout is also more blunt than a shortfin mako's. White sharks are a prohibited species and cannot be retained legally.

Porbeagle: Porbeagle sharks have a secondary caudal keel, and have teeth with lateral cusplets, while shortfin makos only have one caudal keel and no lateral cusplets. They also have a distinct white marking on the rear edge of the first dorsal fin.

Longfin mako: Longfin mako sharks are very similar to shortfin makos but, as their name suggests, they have much longer pectoral fins. They also have larger eyes than shortfin makos, and the area on their snout is darker (dusky or bluish-black compared to white) than the same area on shortfin makos. Longfin mako sharks are a prohibited species and cannot be retained legally.

For more help with shark identification, download the Recreational Atlantic HMS Shark ID Placard, or contact the Atlantic HMS Management Division to request a waterproof hard copy of the placard.