Fishing out our oceans: the list of threatened marine species continues to grow

12 September 2007 | International news release

As the number of marine species assessments increases, so does the number of species in danger. The 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ shows that excessive and destructive fishing activities play a primary role in oceans biodiversity loss

Life in the oceans is disappearing fast and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken, according to the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Out of the 41,415 species on the IUCN Red List, 1,530 use the marine environment. Out of these, about 30% (416) are at risk and 80 are threatened with extinction. While some 240 have been newly added to or reassessed for the 2007 Red List, 71% are in jeopardy, with 31 species facing high risks of extinction.

Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of IUCN’s Global Marine Programme, said: “If the myth of inexhaustible marine resources still persisted, the updated Red List certainly shatters it to pieces. The rate of species loss in the world’s oceans will continue, and at an accelerated pace, if serious actions aren’t undertaken to overcome what we can call the oceans crisis.”

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognized as the most reliable evaluation of the world’s species. It classifies them according to their extinction risk and brings into sharp focus the ongoing decline of the world’s biodiversity and the impact that mankind is having upon life on Earth.

Carl Gustaf Lundin said: “Habitat destruction, pollution, climate change and other human-induced disturbances explain why biodiversity is disappearing. However, over-fishing and destructive fishing practices represent by far for the most important threat to the marine environment. Fishing operations, from local, often illegal, dynamite fishing to large-scale industrial fishing, have devastating effects and will lead to further extinctions.”

Some highlights from this year’s IUCN Red List

Angelsharks joining the “Critically Endangered” Group

In just a year, both Spingy Angelsharks and Smoothback Angelsharks have moved from the Endangered to the Critically Endangered category. The two species used to be a common and important deep-water predator over large areas in the Mediterranean Sea and the Eastern Atlantic. Highly vulnerable to by-catch in bottom fishing operations, angelsharks’ abundance has declined dramatically during the past 50 years to the point that they have been extirpated from large areas of the northern Mediterranean and parts of the West African coasts.

First appearance of corals on the IUCN Red List

Corals have been assessed and added to the IUCN Red List for the very first time. Ten Galápagos species have entered the list, with two in the Critically Endangered category and one in the Vulnerable category. Wellington’s Solitary Coral (Rhizopsammia wellingtoni) has been listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct). The main threats to these species are the effects of El Niño and climate change.

In addition, 74 seaweeds have been added to the IUCN Red List from the Galápagos Islands. Ten species are listed as Critically Endangered, with six of those highlighted as Possibly Extinct. The cold water species are threatened by climate change and the rise in sea temperature that characterizes El Niño. The seaweeds are also indirectly affected by overfishing, which removes predators from the food chain, resulting in an increase of sea urchins and other herbivores that overgraze these algae.

Banggai Cardinalfish heavily exploited by aquarium trade

Overfishing continues to put pressure on many fish species, as does demand from the aquarium trade. The Banggai Cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni), which is highly prized in the aquarium industry, is entering the IUCN Red List for the first time in the Endangered category. The fish, which is only found in the Banggai Archipelago, near Sulawesi, Indonesia, has been heavily exploited, with approximately 900,000 extracted every year. Conservationists are calling for the fish to be reared in captivity for the aquarium trade, so the wild populations can be left to recover.

These highlights from the 2007 IUCN Red List are merely a few examples of the rapid rate of biodiversity loss around the world. The disappearance of species has a direct impact on people’s lives. Declining numbers of coastal and reef fishes, for example, deprive rural poor communities not only of their major source of animal protein, but of their livelihoods as well.

 

Notes to editors

For more information / interviews with leading IUCN spokespeople please contact:

Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of the IUCN Global Marine Programme.
Tel: +41 22 999 0204; Email: marine@iucn.org; Web: Marine

Sarah Halls, IUCN Media Relations Officer, Tel: +41 22 999 0127; Mob: +41 79 24 72 926; Fax: +41 22 999 0020; Email: sarah.halls@iucn.org; Web: www.iucn.org

Craig Hilton-Taylor and Caroline Pollock, IUCN Red List Unit, Tel +44 1223 277 966;
Fax: +44 1223 277-845; Email: caroline.pollock@ssc-uk.org and craig.hilton-taylor@ssc-uk.org; Web: www.iucnredlist.org

Additional information

  • The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies species according to their extinction risk. It is a searchable online database containing the global status and supporting information on more than 41,000 species. Its primary goal is to identify and document the species most in need of conservation attention and provide an index of the state of biodiversity.
  • The IUCN Red List threat categories are the following, in descending order of threat:
    • Extinct or Extinct in the Wild;
    • Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable: species threatened with global extinction;
    • Near Threatened: species close to the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened without ongoing specific conservation measures;
    • Least Concern: species evaluated with a low risk of extinction;
    • Data Deficient: no evaluation because of insufficient data.
  • Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct): This is not a new Red List category, but is a flag developed to identify those Critically Endangered species that are in all probability already Extinct but for which confirmation is required (for example, through more extensive surveys being carried out and failing to find any individuals).
  • The total number of species on the planet is unknown; estimates vary between 10 - 100 million, with 15 million species being the most widely accepted figure. 1.7 - 1.8 million species are known today.
  • People, either directly or indirectly, are the main reason for most species’ decline. Habitat destruction and degradation continues to be the main cause of species’ decline, along with the all too familiar threats of introduced invasive species, unsustainable harvesting, over-hunting, pollution and disease. Climate change is increasingly recognized as a serious threat, which can magnify these dangers.
  • Key findings from major analyses to date include:
    • The number of threatened species is increasing across almost all the major taxonomic groups.
    • IUCN Red List Indices, a new tool for measuring trends in extinction risk are important for monitoring progress towards the 2010 target. They are available for birds and amphibians and show that their status has declined steadily since the 1980s. An IUCN Red List Index can be calculated for any group which has been assessed at least twice.
    • Most threatened birds, mammals and amphibians are located on the tropical continents – the regions that contain the tropical broadleaf forests which are believed to harbour the majority of the Earth’s terrestrial and freshwater species.
    • Of the countries assessed, Australia, Brazil, China and Mexico hold particularly large numbers of threatened species.
    • Estimates vary greatly, but current extinction rates are at least 100-1,000 times higher than natural background rates.
    • The vast majority of extinctions since 1500 AD have occurred on oceanic islands, but over the last 20 years, continental extinctions have become as common as island extinctions.
  • All IUCN Red List updates contribute to a worldwide biodiversity assessment. Work is underway to reassess the status of all mammals (approximately 6,000 species) and birds (approximately 10,000 species) and to assess for the first time all reptiles (approximately 8,000 species) and freshwater fish (approximately 13,000 species). The first global assessment of all amphibians (approximately 6,000 species) was completed in 2004.
  • The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is a joint effort between IUCN and its Species Survival Commission (web), working with its Red List partners BirdLife International www.birdlife.org, Conservation International’s Center for Applied Biodiversity Science www.conservation.org, NatureServe www.natureserve.org, and the Zoological Society of London www.zsl.org.

About The World Conservation (IUCN)

Created in 1948, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) brings together 84 States, 108 government agencies, 800 plus NGOs, and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 147 countries in a unique worldwide partnership. The Union’s mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

The Union is the world's largest environmental knowledge network and has helped over 75 countries to prepare and implement national conservation and biodiversity strategies. The Union is a multicultural, multilingual organization with 1,000 staff located in 62 countries. Its headquarters are in Gland, Switzerland.
www.iucn.org

About the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) and Species Programme (web)

The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is the largest of IUCN’s six volunteer commissions with a global membership of 7,000 experts. SSC advises IUCN and its members on the wide range of technical and scientific aspects of species conservation and is dedicated to securing a future for biodiversity. SSC has significant input into the international agreements dealing with biodiversity conservation.

The IUCN Species Programme supports the activities of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and individual Specialist Groups, as well as implementing global species conservation initiatives. It is an integral part of the IUCN Secretariat and is managed from IUCN’s international headquarters in Gland, Switzerland. The Species Programme includes a number of technical units covering Species Trade and Use, the Red List Unit, Freshwater Biodiversity Assessments Unit, (all located in Cambridge, UK), and the Global Biodiversity Assessment Unit (located in Washington DC, USA).

About the IUCN Global Marine Programme (web)

The goal of IUCN’s Global Marine Programme is to contribute towards conservation of marine biodiversity by promoting, influencing, and catalyzing sustainable uses and equitable sharing of the resources as well as protecting the ecosystems. The programme works closely with IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) marine working group to achieve these aims.