Whale shark

Mako Sharks

Scientific name: Isurus oxyrinchus mako-from-barb-for-ted

Mako sharks occur worldwide in warm-temperate and tropical waters. In the North Pacific they are seldom seen north of Point Conception.  The high abundance of juveniles in the California Bight indicates its importance as a nursery ground for this species. Where the mako sharks go after they leave this area is unknown; correspondingly the extent of their movements in the eastern Pacific are unclear.

Makos are smaller than white sharks, reaching a maximum size of approximately 4 m. Like the white and salmon sharks, makos are able to elevate the temperature of their bodies above that of the surrounding water, although only to a lesser extent. They are considered to be one of the fastest sharks and are impressive acrobats, making dramatic leaps up to 6 m out of the water.  Makos are voracious predators, feeding on a range of fish and squid -- although turtles and dolphins have also been seen in stomach contents.

Although they have a reputation for being aggressive, attacks by makos are rare. Makos are targeted and caught as bycatch in a number of fisheries in the Pacific, and the juveniles support a recreational fishery in the California Bight. The lack of basic information on large-scale migrations and stock structure makes the impact of these fisheries difficult to predict. More information on movements and habitat preferences is required for the long-term management of this species.  This is especially the case for sharks, which are highly susceptible to over exploitation due to their low reproductive rates.

Makos have been tagged successfully with both acoustic and satellite tags. They are relatively easy to handle and are commonly encountered off the coast of California and Mexico in summer months. For the TOPP program they will be opportunistically tagged with both Pop-up Satellite Archival Tags (PSAT) and Smart Position and Temperature (SPOT) tags. The data collected on movements and habitat preferences will both aid in management and provide an interesting comparison to the two other endothermic sharks (white and salmon shark) included in TOPP.