It’s not just plastic that’s making the oceans inhabitable for marine creatures as days pass. Everything from overfishing, loss of habitat to illegal hunting are causing these sea creatures to suffer and ultimately reach the brink of extinction.
These sea creatures are vital to maintaining, not just our oceans, but our world’s ecosystem. While conservationists are doing what they can, it’s also up to the general public to reach out their hands to help these underwater living beings. Read on to find out which marine animals need our help the most.
Conservation Status: Near Threatened in IUCN Red List
Due to excessive commercial fishing and loss of prey for these marine animals, Bluefin Tuna are on the verge of going extinct mainly because of the lack of conservation efforts despite being the most valuable fish in the world.
Oceana had stated that the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) estimates that Bluefin Tunas have been reduced to around 25,000.
Conservationists had placed their bets on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to protect and help increase Bluefin Tuna’s numbers, but the measures didn’t go through. CITES only meets once every three years making conservation efforts for these species extremely difficult.
Mediterranean Monk Seal
Conservation Status: Listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and designated as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Listed as endangered in IUCN.
According to WWF, Mediterranean Monk Seals are one of the most endangered species on the planet with only 500 of these seals remaining. While the existence of other seals is threatened due to global warming, these monk seals are in rapid decline because of hunting, habitat destruction, and pollution.
According to mmc.gov, Marine Mammal Commission’s Research Program is now trying to increase awareness and therefore help protect the Mediterranean monk seals. They are also trying to identify and protect the main areas of the monk seal habitats with the help of locals (especially those involved in fishing) and volunteers with community-based activities to help improve the seals’ numbers.
One of the most fascinating and largest mammals in the world is in small numbers in the Earth’s ecosystem. Even though an international ban on whale hunting was posted in the 1960s, the population of these gentle giants kept decreasing.
Blue whales play a huge role in maintaining the health and ecosystem of the ocean by helping regulate the flow of food and ensuring that certain marine animals do not overpopulate the ocean. Today, conservation efforts are being done to help increase their numbers and NOAA Fisheries is working to protect this species in other ways.
Conservation Status: Listed as critically endangered by IUCN as of 2019
One of the most harmless and recognizable shark species is now critically endangered with numbers in decline. They face threats such as overfishing for their fins for soup and livers for oil (which is used as vitamins in medicines). These sharks, like all other sharks, are vital to coral reefs which maintain the ocean’s balance and hence are extremely important to marine life.
According to the Padi Aware Foundation, The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries (MAGAP) has ordered the implementation of management and order measures of the incidental catches of hammerhead sharks in Ecuadorian waters.
Conservation Status: Critically endangered according to WWF. Unfavorable conservation status in Appendix II
Finless Porpoises are known to be extremely intelligent and are found swimming in rivers and lakes of South East Asia and Eastern Asia. Due to illegal fishing and habitat loss, these incredible creatures keep decreasing in numbers and are now critically endangered.
WWF states that only around 1800 Finless Porpoises remain in the world with their numbers in a continuous decline. According to them, conservation efforts come from China’s Ministry of Agriculture who classified the species as a ‘National First Grade Key Protected Wild Animal,’ the strictest classification. WWF is also in the process of restoring wetlands that are the crucial habitat for these species.
The real effort will have to come from the general public, farmers, and fishermen to collaborate with conservation efforts in hopes of increasing the numbers of these kind and playful creatures.
Conservation Status: Listed by the IUCN as a “red list” endangered species.
As pretty as these dolphins are, they are unfortunately reaching the line of being extinct. Only a handful of them, around 7400 individuals, remain in the waters of New Zealand.
These harmless and human-friendly dolphins are reduced due to boat disturbances, bycatch, and pollutants. Scientists and conservationists have been raising voices for more than two decades to implement a New-Zealand wide ban on gill and trawl nets so these creatures can swim the waters in peace and breed in larger numbers.
Conservation Status: Listed as endangered by the IUCN
Sea Otters are one of the most crucial marine mammals the planet needs to keep the ecosystem thriving. They feed on sea urchins which in return helps the kelp forests to thrive.
Unfortunately, these cute creatures with a heavy set of skills are hunted for their gorgeous fur. This caused their numbers to decline and is still on the downside. Although their numbers have slightly increased after the International Fur Seal Treaty in 1911, they still have a long way to go.
Hawksbill Sea Turtles
Conservation Status: Critically endangered by IUCN
Distinguished due to their shining golden and brown shell, the Hawksbill Turtle is one of the most famous turtles that swim in the ocean and unfortunately the most endangered one as well.
These turtles are hunted for these beautiful shells which are illegally sold to create jewels and accessories. Although there was a turtle hunting ban placed in 1973, these turtles are still hunted for their shells to make earrings, necklaces, sunglasses, and bekko combs (used in a traditional Japanese wedding dress), and are still widely sold across the Caribbean, Asia, and Central America, as stated in Way Fair Travel.
Conservation Status: Listed as vulnerable by IUCN
With large bodies and funny faces, Manatees are known to be the goofy creatures in the water world and are the ocean’s largest herbivores. Sadly, they are also one of the endangered creatures that need more conservation efforts.
Boat collisions, entanglement in fishing gear, and habitat pollution caused their population decline and pushed them into IUCN’s vulnerable list. A Manatee Sanctuary Act was placed in the US to provide a safe home for them and prohibit any disturbances but the act itself did not completely help with their population increase.
According to Way Fair Travel, a total of 804 manatees died in Florida waters in 2018, with boat collisions causing 119 of these deaths. The toxic algae crisis was also reported to have caused around 100 manatee deaths in 2018.
This rare marine animal is now even rarer as it faces imminent extinction. Fishing and chlorinated pesticides are the main causes for pushing vaquitas into near extinction. Although Mexico had placed a ban on fatal gillnets, illegal fishing still remains the main cause for the declining population of these poor marine creatures.
2021 is said to be a critical year for these animals where the human population could either save or cause it to be extinct for good.