More airplane than sailboat, the technology of these yachts is impressive. The main sail is an articulating wing; the boats are composed of the lightest and strongest composites, and the boats literally fly- hydroplaning on small struts allowing the entire hull to sail above the surface. This allows these boats to sail double the speed of the wind and achieve top speeds of 50 miles per hour.
While these yachts are darned impressive, the mako shark is even more impressive.
The fastest fish in the sea, the shortfin mako shark has been estimated to reach bursts speeds as high as 55 miles per hour, exceeding the top velocity of these super yachts. Water has a viscosity of 1000 times higher than air. Without this resistance think how fast a mako could fly!
With all of our few hundred years of technological advances, millions of years of evolution has designed this fish to be the ultimate predator equipped with a biological technology we cannot yet approach. To see replicas of the fish and the boat, the California Academy of Sciences has a really great exhibit titled Built for Speed running until the end of September.
Shortfin mako sharks, (Isurus oxyrinchus) are a beautifully built, strong and streamlined shark. Like their cousins, makos are a highly adapted shark. With a high metabolic rate and efficient heat-exchange system makos can maintain a body temperature warmer than the surrounding water. Not only fast in the water, these sharks have rapid growth rates, twice as fast as some of the other species of sharks in the Laminiid family, shared by blue sharks, tiger sharks and white sharks. Like these sharks, makos can regulate their body temperature allowing them to visit colder waters like those in our National Marine Sanctuary. In the past few weeks, mako sharks have been reported off our coastline following albacore tuna, and other cool water species of fish with long migrations.
Male mako sharks mature at around 6.5 feet while females mature at about 8.5 feet with maximum lengths of 12 feet and max weights of over 1200 pounds. Last summer we commented on a Southern California trophy hunter who killed the largest mako shark of record at around 1300 pounds.
The desire for shark fin soup and the market for the meat of the shortfin mako has lead to a large decline in population numbers. The shortfin mako is not only subject to overfishing; they are also victim as by-catch in the tuna and swordfish fishing industries internationally and domestically.
As for many species of shark, Southern California is an important nursery for mako shark. Unfortunately, many if these sharks are caught as bycatch and in a targeted fishery in our own state waters. The National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) has included the shortfin mako on their list of managed pelagic sharks, yet population estimates are not well defined. Due to a history of overfishing, NMFS has reduced the annual catch in an attempt to counteract its declining numbers.
The shortfin mako is listed as Vulnerable under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, although like many shark populations, numbers are hard to establish. Like many species of large shark, recovery from overfishing is long due to their slow reproductive rate.
These sharks are among the species seriously impacted by shark finning in New Zealand.
How are fast boats and swift fish related? We have joined the New Zealand Shark Alliance in a bid to
urge Emirates Team New Zealand, Kiwi sailors and the public to speak out in
support of a proposed plan of action that will ban shark finning. Add your voice here.