Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Age, growth, maturity, longevity and natural mortality of the shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) in New Zealand waters

S. D. H. Bishop A D , M. P. Francis B , C. Duffy C and J. C. Montgomery A

A School of Biological Sciences and Institute of Aquatic and Atmospheric Sciences, Private Bag 92019, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

B National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd, Private Bag 14-901, Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand.

C Department of Conservation, Private Bag 68908, Newton, Auckland, New Zealand.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 57(2) 143-154
Submitted: 19 April 2005  Accepted: 3 November 2005   Published: 2 February 2006


Shortfin mako sharks were aged by counting growth bands in sectioned vertebrae (n = 256), and assuming annual band-pair deposition. No systematic ageing bias was present and count precision was high. 0+ juveniles were identified from length–frequency plots and assigned ages based on a theoretical birth date of 1 October and their date of capture. A Schnute generalised growth model fitted to the combined vertebral and 0+ data described the growth patterns best. Shortfin makos grow very rapidly initially, increasing by ~39 cm fork length in their first year. Thereafter, males and females grow at similar but slower rates until about age 7 years, after which the relative growth of males declines. Longevity estimates were 29 and 28 years for males and females respectively. Natural mortality (M) is probably in the range of 0.10–0.15. Median ages at maturity were 7–9 years for males and 19–21 years for females. Comparisons of growth curves reported here and elsewhere suggest no regional differences in growth rates. The shortfin mako is a late-maturing species with moderate longevity and low natural mortality. With these life history characteristics and an unknown stock size and structure worldwide, management should be of a precautionary nature.

Extra keywords: ageing, conservation, fisheries management, vertebrae.


We thank the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries for funding this study under research project TUN2002/01, and providing access to data and vertebral samples collected by observers. Thanks to Rodney Bennett, Bryan Williams and Dave Hammond for providing samples and the following fishing clubs for allowing indispensable sampling of sharks and use of facilities: Hawkes Bay Sports Fishing Club, Waikato Boating and Sportfishing Club, Mercury Bay Ocean Sports, New Plymouth Sportfishing and Underwater Club, Wairarapa Sports Fishing Club Inc. and Plimmerton Boating Club Inc. Lisa Natanson provided invaluable training and advice in the ageing of mako shark vertebrae, and access to unpublished data. Lynda Griggs assisted with data extracts and interpretation, Chris Francis carried out the probit analyses, and Michael Manning advised on the Schnute growth modelling. The manuscript was improved by thoughtful comments by two reviewers (Colin Simpfendorfer and Julie Neer).


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