A relative of the manatee, 700 new species are now threatened with extinction

A relative of the manatee, 700 new species are now threatened with extinction
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Populations of vulnerable species of marine mammals, numerous species of abalone, and a species of Caribbean coral are now is in danger of disappearingthe international conservation organization said on Friday.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature announced the update During the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP15, Montreal conference. The association’s hundreds of members include government agencies from around the world, making it one of the most comprehensive environmental networks on the planet.

The IUCN uses the Red List of Threatened Species to classify animals that are nearing extinction. This year, the association 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 Ocean.

The dugong is vulnerable throughout its range, and populations in East Africa have now been redlisted as critically endangered, the IUCN said in a statement. According to the group, the population of New Caledonia was included in the list as endangered.

The main threats to the animal are bycatch in fishing gear in East Africa and poaching in New Caledonia, the IUCN said. It also suffers from boat collisions and the loss of seaweed it eats, said Evan Trotzuk, who heads the East Africa Red List assessment.

“Strengthening community-led fisheries management and expanding employment opportunities outside of fisheries are key issues in East Africa, where marine ecosystems are central to people’s food security and livelihoods,” said Trotzuk.

The IUCN Red List includes more than 150,000 species. The list sometimes overlaps with species listed under the US Endangered Species Act, such as the North Atlantic right whale. The IUCN states that more than 42,000 species on the red list are threatened with extinction.

The IUCN uses several categories to describe an animal’s status, from “least concern” to “critically endangered.” The IUCN usually updates the red list two or three times a year. This week’s update includes more than 3,000 additions to the red list. 700 of them are endangered.

Jane Smart, head of IUCN’s Center for Science and Information, said saving endangered species would require political will, and the weight of the new listings could serve as a clarion call.

“The news we often give you about this is often gloomy, a little depressing, but it’s driving action, which is good,” Smart said.

A pillar coral found in the Caribbean was moved from vulnerable to critically endangered in this week’s update. Coral is threatened by tissue wasting disease and its population has declined by more than 80% since 1990, the IUCN said. The IUCN lists more than two dozen corals in the Atlantic Ocean as critically endangered.

Almost half of the Atlantic Ocean’s corals are “at high risk of extinction due to climate change and other impacts,” said Beth Polidoro, associate professor at Arizona State University and coordinator of the IUCN red list.

Unsustainable harvesting and poaching have emerged as threats to abalone as a seafood product, the IUCN said. According to the Red List’s first global assessment of the species, 20 of the world’s 54 abalone species are threatened with extinction.

Threats to abalone are compounded by climate change, disease and pollution, the organization says.

“This red list update reveals new evidence of multiple mutual threats to the decline of marine life,” said Jon Paul Rodriguez, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.


Follow Patrick Whittle on Twitter: @pxwhittle


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