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Human activity playing role in endangering thousands of marine species

Dugongs, large herbivorous marine mammals, are threatened with extinction. Photo by Ahmed Shawky/International Union of Conservation Nature
Dugongs, large herbivorous marine mammals, are threatened with extinction. Photo by Ahmed Shawky/International Union of Conservation Nature

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Human activity including illegal fishing and pollution, along with climate change and disease, are threatening tens of thousands of marine species around the world with more than 42,000 facing extinction, according to a report released Friday by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The IUNC's Red List of Threatened Species said the populations of dugongs -- large herbivorous marine mammals -- and 44% of all abalone shellfish species are the latest animals threatened with extinction.

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The organization said the pillar coral, found in the western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, also has deteriorated to the "critically endangered" list due "to accumulated pressures."

"Today's IUCN Red List update reveals a perfect storm of unsustainable human activity decimating marine life around the globe," Bruno Oberle, IUCN's director general, said in a statement.

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"As the world looks to the ongoing U.N. biodiversity conference to set the course for nature recovery, we simply cannot afford to fail. We urgently need to address the linked climate and biodiversity crises, with profound changes to our economic systems, or we risk losing the crucial benefit the oceans provide us with."

The Red List now includes 150,388 species, of which 42,108 are threatened with extinction. More than 1,550 of the 17,903 marine animals and plants assessed are at risk of extinction, with climate change impacting at least 41% of threatened marine species, the report said.

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The impact, the report said, will affect the global economy. Abalone species are sold as some of the world's most expensive seafood. The IUCN said unsustainable extraction and poaching primary threats compounded by climate change, disease and pollution are dramatically limiting the species.

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"Twenty of the world's 54 abalone species are now threatened with extinction," the report said. "In South Africa, poaching by criminal networks, many connected to the international drugs trade, have devastated populations of the endangered perlemoen abalone.

"Increasingly frequent and severe marine heatwaves have caused mass mortalities, killing 99% of Roe's abalones in its most northerly reaches of Western Australia in 2011."

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