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November 21, 2014

Yet more species pushed to the limit


Following last week’s World Parks Congress in Sydney, the IUCN red list was updated, showing that the Pacific Bluefin tuna, Chinese puffer fish, American eel, Chinese cobra and the Australian butterfly are currently being pushed to the limit.

The Pacific Bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) was moved from the “least at risk” category to now be listed as “vulnerable”, meaning that it is directly at risk from extinction if circumstances that threaten its survival don’t change. What puts this species at such a high risk is the huge demand for sushi, a market which has boomed both in Asia and worldwide in recent years.

However, it’s not just the Pacific Bluefin tuna that is threatened. Its cousin, the Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) has also undergone deep trouble these past years.

Last week, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) met in Genoa, Italy to discuss management plans. Because the stock has shown recent signs of improvement, there were fears that this meeting would end badly for the Atlantic Bluefin tuna, and that catch limits would be drastically increased, outside the limit of scientific recommendations. However, to the relief of Oceana, the increase in catch limits adhered to scientific advice, hopefully paving the way to a successful recovery for this species.

Unfortunately, not all threatened species were given such treatment.  Sharks and Mediterranean swordfish, both of which Oceana has heavily campaigned for, were not given the priority that they needed as no management plans were agreed upon, allowing overfishing to just continue. Even though on the IUCN red list swordfish is listed as “least concern”, the Mediterranean stock is heavily overfished and poorly mismanaged.

Back to the IUCN red list, now a shocking total of 22,123 out of 76,199 assessed species are threatened with extinction, or one-third. Every time a species is “upgraded” to a more threatened category, it signifies to us that something is wrong with how we are managing the biodiversity around us; both terrestrial and marine. But do we really need to wait until a species is listed as “endangered” on the IUCN red list until effective management measures are actually put in place?

ICCAT 2014 photo album