URI researcher: Mako sharks being killed off more

By: Rebecca Turco

Email: rturco@abc6.com

KINGSTON, R.I. – New findings from a URI researcher show mako sharks are being captured and killed far more often than people think.

Since 2004, Brad Wetherbee and his team of researchers have been installing trackers on makos. A few years in, Wetherbee noticed a trend he was not expecting: about 30 percent of the sharks they tracked were captured and killed by fishermen.

"It was a real eye-opener how many got caught, because we tracked a lot of sharks of different species and none of them ever got caught," explained Wetherbee. “I never would have expected that many."

He found makos are in high demand for two main reasons: food and sport. "They taste good and they put on a great show when they’re caught," Wetherbee said.

Wetherbee’s mako mortality rate is ten times more than international officials have estimated, the same officials responsible for managing the world’s mako shark fishery.

Now he’s hoping they use his numbers to help keep the mako population from dwindling. "Information is the most important thing," Wetherbee told ABC6 News. "If you’re going to manage a population, you need to know what’s happening with the population in the first place."

Wetherbee and his team of researchers have tracked about 90 mako sharks over the past 13 years. The sharks caught and killed were tracked in the waters off the East Coast of the United States, Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Portugal and New Zealand.

© WLNE-TV 2017