Oceans cover about 70% of the earth and support an incredible variety of life, including the world’s largest mammal, the Blue Whale. The oceans are a significant source of oxygen for our planet and are instrumental in the capture and storage of carbon dioxide. Marine species provide important ecosystem services such as the provision of food, medicines, and livelihoods. They also support tourism and recreational activities around the world.
Unfortunately, the resources of the sea have been over-harvested by humans, threatening marine biodiversity. The consequences of over-fishing and habitat destruction are evident in many parts of the world and may have already damaged the marine ecosystem irreversibly. Now that the effects of over-fishing, ocean acidification and climate change are better understood, it is critical that marine species are protected to secure their survival and maintain the ecosystem services they provide.
The IUCN Species Programme Marine Biodiversity Unit is conducting the first global review of the threat of extinction for every marine vertebrate species, plants and selected invertebrates - the Global Marine Species Assessment project. The project involves a range of partners in compiling and analyzing all existing data on approximately 20,000 marine species, and will determine the risk of extinction according to the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria.