79% of fish species threatened with extinction ignored by North-East Atlantic governments

Press Release Date: January 18, 2016

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Tomorrow, in Trondheim, Norway, representatives from 15 governments and the EU will convene under the OSPAR Convention to discuss the protection of threatened marine species and habitats in the North-East Atlantic. Oceana urges them to expand the list of threatened and declining species. The list has not been updated since 2008 and does not include 79% of the fish species recognised as threatened with extinction. Oceana is also advocating for the protection of declining habitats, such as kelp forests and Haploops communities.

“OSPAR needs a fundamental overhaul of its inefficient procedures for listing and protecting threatened biodiversity. We call on North-East Atlantic governments to stop dragging their feet and urgently adopt a more systematic approach and list all marine species and habitats recognised by science as threatened. At the same time, we need real action from OSPAR to ensure that once listed, threatened species and habitats are actually protected,” states Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director for Oceana in Europe.

The OSPAR List of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats was adopted in 2003. It is the main tool for identifying priorities for conservation measures in the North-East Atlantic. However, no additions have been made to the list since 2008, despite growing scientific evidence that marine biodiversity is degrading rapidly due to increasing human activities and climate change.

In comparison to the IUCN European Red List of Marine Fishes, which lists 52 threatened species found in the North-East Atlantic, OSPAR only commits to protect 11 (21%). For example, six species that are Red Listed as Critically Endangered, the closest level to extinction, are ignored by OSPAR, such as the smalltooth sand tiger (Odontaspis ferox), the bull ray (Pteromylaeus bovinus) and the spiny butterfly ray (Gymnura altavela).  Important marine habitats such as kelp forests are also neglected. Kelp forests are one of the most productive ecosystems on Earth and have undergone severe declines. Worrying omissions such as these could be avoided by employing a systematic, scientific process.

“This is about the credibility of North-East Atlantic governments, who committed to targeted conservation actions in 2011. They cannot pretend to protect our marine environment with such a broken process,” adds Gustavsson.

Photo gallery of threatened species unprotected by OSPAR