Populations of a vulnerable marine mammal species, numerous species of abalone and a species of Caribbean coral are now threatened with extinctionan international conservation organization said Friday.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature announced the update during the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP15, conference in Montreal. The union’s hundreds of members include government agencies from around the world, and it is one of the most extensive environmental networks in the world.
The IUCN uses the Red List of Endangered Species to categorize animals in danger of extinction. This year, the union is sounding the alarm about the dugong – a large and docile marine mammal that lives from the east coast of Africa to the western Pacific.
The dugong is vulnerable throughout its range, and now populations in East Africa have been red-listed as critically endangered, IUCN said in a statement. Populations in New Caledonia are listed as endangered, the group said.
The biggest threats to the animal are accidental capture in fishing gear in East Africa and poaching in New Caledonia, according to IUCN. It also suffers from boat collisions and loss of the seagrass it eats, said Evan Trotzuk, who led the East Africa Red List review.
“Strengthening community-led fisheries management and expanding work opportunities outside of fishing are essential in East Africa, where marine ecosystems are fundamental to food security and people’s livelihoods,” Trotzuk said.
The IUCN Red List lists more than 150,000 species. The list sometimes overlaps with those listed under the US Endangered Species Act, as in the case of the North Atlantic right whale. According to IUCN, more than 42,000 species on the Red List are threatened with extinction.
IUCN uses several categories to describe an animal’s status, ranging from “least concern” to “critically endangered”. IUCN typically updates the red list two or three times a year. This week’s update includes over 3,000 redlist additions. Of these, 700 are threatened with extinction.
Jane Smart, head of IUCN’s Center for Science and Data, said political will is needed to save the endangered species, and the severity of the new listings could serve as a clarion call.
“The news we give you a lot of the time about this is a lot of the time bleak, a little bit depressing, but it spurs the action, which is good,” Smart said.
Pillar coral, found throughout the Caribbean, has been moved from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered in this week’s update. The coral is threatened by a tissue loss disease and its population has shrunk by more than 80% over most of its range since 1990, according to IUCN. The IUCN lists more than two dozen corals in the Atlantic Ocean as critically endangered.
Nearly half of the Atlantic Ocean’s corals are “at increased risk of extinction due to climate change and other impacts,” Beth Polidoro, an associate professor at Arizona State University and red list coordinator for IUCN.
Unsustainable harvesting and poaching have emerged as threats to abalone, which is used as seafood, IUCN said. Twenty of the world’s 54 abalone species are threatened with extinction according to the first global assessment of the red-listed species.
Threats to the abalone are exacerbated by climate change, disease and pollution, the organization said.
“This red list update brings to light new evidence of the many interacting threats to declining marine life,” said Jon Paul Rodríguez, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.
Follow Patrick Whittle on Twitter: @pxwhittle
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