Found in seas all round the world, the mako is very much a warm water species. It is an ocean-going fish and likes to live in deep clear water, although the occasional small specimen may venture inshore in pursuit of mackerel or other baitfish. Larger specimens keep well clear of the shoreline.
Though never plentiful around the coasts of Britain, the mako was once found – and caught – fairly regularly. But overfishing, and the decline of prey such as mackerel, herring and pilchard, reduced mako numbers almost to zero. Today the respite from hunting and the warming of British seas mean that numbers may be going up.
Elongated and slimmer in shape than the porbeagle, the mako is a handsome shark.
Its body is marine blue, its underparts snowy white. The graceful tail stalk bears a horizontally flattened keel on either side, and the tail fin has a ‘crescent moon’ shape, with the upper, notched lobe slightly longer than the lower.
The mako is occasionally confused with the porbeagle, but their teeth (if you can get a view of them) show which is which. Those of the porbeagle are large and triangular with a small cusp at each side of the base, but the mako’s teeth are long, narrow and irregular with no sign of a basal cusp. Also the lower teeth of the mako hang forward, clear of the lips.
Follow the feeding
Every inch a predator, the mako is active and fast-moving. All those found in British waters have wandered in from the Atlantic. In the Atlantic the mako fives mainly on tuna, but in British waters it hunts mackerel, herring and pilchard. It is the fastest of all sharks and has no trouble running down fast-moving prey. Very unusually for fish, the mako is warm-blooded — its body temperature is normally 7-10 degrees higher than the surrounding water. The high temperature allows it to respire faster, giving it more energy to maintain the speed needed to overtake virtually any other fish.
Running to a top weight of around 1250 lb (567kg), the mako is much sought-after as a sporting species. Once hooked, it often resorts to a spectacular display of aerobatics -jumping as much as 9m (30ft). Many anglers think this the highest-jumping species on the game fish list.
Extremely aggressive, the mako has been known to make unprovoked attacks on boats. Once hooked and played out, these fish must be handled with great care. Even experienced commercial shark fishermen take no chances. The largest mako caught in British waters weighed 500 lb (226.7kg), but much larger ones have been hooked and lost after marathon battles.