Illegal and unsustainable fishing, fossil fuel exploration, climate crisis and disease are pushing marine species to the brink of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, with populations of dugong, abalone and pillar coral at risk of disappearing forever.
Marine life is facing a ‘perfect storm’ of human overconsumption, threatening the survival of some of the world’s most expensive seafood, according to the conservation organization, which publishes the most recent information on the health of sea populations. wild animals on Earth.
From South Africa to Australia, 20 of the world’s 54 abalone species are now threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN’s first scientific assessment of the species group. In East Africa and New Caledonia, dugongs – marine mammals that feed largely on seagrass beds – are near extinction, damaged by oil and gas exploration, bottom trawling, chemical pollution and mining.
The news comes as countries negotiate this decade’s biodiversity targets to protect the planet at COP15, with draft proposals to take sweeping action against species extinction this decade.
“Today’s IUCN Red List update reveals a perfect storm of unsustainable human activity decimating marine life around the world. As the world looks to the ongoing UN Biodiversity Conference to set the course for nature’s recovery, we simply cannot afford to fail,” said Dr Bruno Oberle, Chief Executive Officer of the IUCN. “We must urgently address the climate and biodiversity crises, with profound changes to our economic systems, or we risk losing the crucial benefits that the oceans provide us.”
Species at risk include the endangered Omani abalone, found off the Arabian Peninsula, which has disappeared from more than half of its range due to pollution from agricultural and industrial runoff, which causes harmful algal blooms. On the west coast of South Africa, poaching by criminal networks, many linked to the international drug trade, has devastated Pearlmoan abalone populations.
In the western Indian Ocean, there are fewer than 250 mature dugongs left, with fewer than 900 in New Caledonia.
“Strengthening community-based fisheries governance and expanding work opportunities beyond fishing are critical in East Africa, where marine ecosystems are critical to food security and people’s livelihoods” said Evan Trotzuk, who led the Red List assessment of mammals in East Africa.
“Also, the creation of additional conservation areas where dugongs live, especially around the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park [in Mozambique]would also empower local communities and other stakeholders to find, implement and benefit from solutions that halt the long-term decline in dugong abundance and seagrass extent and quality sailors,” he said.
The pillar coral, found from the Caribbean to the Yucatan Peninsula, was also in the latest round of IUCN Red List assessments and went from vulnerable to critically endangered after its population declined by more than 80% in its range since 1990. The decline has been caused by disease, bleaching due to the climate crisis and fertilizer runoff.
There are 150,388 species that have been assessed by scientists for the IUCN Red List, of which 42,108 are threatened with extinction. More than 1,550 of the 17,903 marine animals and plants analyzed are at risk of disappearing forever, with global warming affecting at least 41% of threatened marine species.
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