Bluefin tuna is one of those listed as endangered. (Photo: Tahsin Ceylan/IUCN)
Mediterranean to lose dozens of fish species in near future: study
Wednesday, April 20, 2011, 01:20 (GMT + 9)
More than 40 marine fish species now roaming the Mediterranean Sea could vanish in the next few years, reveals a study run by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Researchers concluded that nearly half of the species of sharks and rays (cartilaginous fish) and at least 12 species of bony fish are in danger of extinction due to overfishing, marine habitat destruction and polluted waters.
Commercial species like bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), dusky grouper (Epinephelus marginatus), sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and hake (Merluccius merluccius) are already categorised as threatened or near threatened with extinction at the regional level primarily as a result of overfishing.
"The Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic population of the Atlantic bluefin tuna is of particular concern. There has been an estimated 50 per cent decline in this species’ reproduction potential over the past 40 years due to intensive overfishing,” said IUCN Global Marine Species Assessment Coordinator Kent Carpenter.
He noted that a lack of compliance with current quotas plus rampant underreporting of tuna catches may be to blame for hampering conservation efforts in the Mediterranean.
IUCN pointed out that fishing methods using gear like fishing lines, gill and trawling nets and the illegal use of driftnets results in the bycatch of hundreds of animals including sharks, rays, dolphins, whales, turtles and even birds.
Trawling nets also ravage the sea bottom, where many fish live, spawn and feed, told Maria del Mar Otero, IUCN-Med Marine Programme officer.
“The use of trawling nets is one of the main problems for conservation and sustainability of many marine species,” she added.
IUCN’s study underlines the need to buttress fishing regulations, produce new marine reserves, cut pollution and appraise fishing quotas - especially the number of catches allowed for threatened species.
Catherine Numa, a IUCN-Med Species Programme officer, believes consumers can help conservation efforts as they choose which species of seafood to eat.
“Based on the findings of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, we hope that politicians will make the appropriate decisions to secure this important food source for the future, whilst protecting and valuing the biological diversity of the planet at the same time,” she commented.
These findings comprise the first inclusive regional IUCN Red List assessment of the native marine fish species for an entire sea. As well, the report underscores the remarkable dearth of data regarding the conservation status of nearly one third of these Mediterranean marine fish (assessed as Data Deficient).
IUCN believes that additional research could expose that the Data Deficient group includes a large share of threatened fish.
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