Pacific Bluefin Tuna, Chinese Pufferfish, American Eel, Chinese Cobra and an Australian butterfly are threatened with extinction.
Fishing, logging, mining, agriculture and other activities to satisfy our growing appetite for resources are threatening the survival of the Pacific Bluefin Tuna, Chinese Pufferfish, American Eel and Chinese Cobra, while the destruction of habitat has caused the extinction of a Malaysian mollusc and the world’s largest known earwig, and threatens the survival of many other species – according to the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ released today at the IUCN World Parks Congress taking place in Sydney, Australia.
The IUCN Red List, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, now includes 76,199 assessed species, of which 22,413 are threatened with extinction. As nearly half of the newly assessed species occur within protected areas, IUCN calls for better management of these places to stop further biodiversity decline.
“Each update of the IUCN Red List makes us realize that our planet is constantly losing its incredible diversity of life, largely due to our destructive actions to satisfy our growing appetite for resources,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “But we have scientific evidence that protected areas can play a central role in reversing this trend. Experts warn that threatened species poorly represented in protected areas are declining twice as fast as those which are well represented. Our responsibility is to increase the number of protected areas and ensure that they are effectively managed so that they can contribute to saving our planet’s biodiversity.”
With today’s update, the Pacific Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus orientalis) has moved from the Least Concern category to Vulnerable, which means that it is now threatened with extinction. The species is extensively targeted by the fishing industry for the sushi and sashimi markets predominantly in Asia. Most of the fish caught are juveniles which have not yet had a chance to reproduce and the population is estimated to have declined by 19 to 33% over the past 22 years.
Existing marine protected areas do not provide sufficient protection for the species. The expansion of marine protected areas, within 200 miles of the coast and incorporating breeding areas, could help conserve the species, according to IUCN experts.
“The Pacific Bluefin Tuna market value continues to rise,” says Bruce Collette, Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission Tuna and Billfish Specialist Group. “Unless fisheries implement the conservation and management measures developed for the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including a reduction in the catches of juvenile fish, we cannot expect its status to improve in the short term.”
The Chinese Pufferfish (Takifugu chinensis) has entered the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. Its global population is estimated to have declined by 99.99% over the past 40 years due to overexploitation. A popular food fish in Japan, it is among the top four fugu species consumed as sashimi. One of the world’s most poisonous fish, fugu need to be expertly prepared before consumption. The Chinese Pufferfish occurs in several marine protected areas throughout the coastal waters of China. Conservation measures, such as the creation of marine protected areas which are annually closed to trawling, have been implemented. However, harvest still needs to be urgently controlled to prevent the species’ extinction, say IUCN experts.
The American Eel (Anguilla rostrata), listed as Endangered is threatened by barriers to migration; climate change; parasites; pollution; habitat loss and commercial harvest. Due to the decline of the Japanese Eel (Anguilla japonica), also listed as Endangered, the intensive eel farming industry in East Asia is seeking to replenish seed stock with other species, such as the American Eel. This has led to increased reports of poaching of the American Eel in the United States. Whilst the combination of these threats is placing pressure on the species, positive conservation action could result in an improvement in its status.
The Chinese Cobra (Naja atra) has been newly assessed as Vulnerable. Its population has declined by 30 to 50% over the past 20 years. Chinese Cobras are found in south-eastern China, Taiwan, northern Viet Nam and Lao PDR, and are among the top animal species exported from mainland China to Hong Kong for the food market. Chinese Cobras are found in protected areas such as Ailaoshan Nature Reserve, Daweishan Nature Reserve (Yunnan) and Kenting National Park (Taiwan). Although international trade in the species is regulated, there is an urgent need to strengthen national conservation initiatives to ensure its survival.
“The growing food market is putting unsustainable pressure on these and other species,” says Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Group. “We urgently need to impose strict limits on harvesting and take appropriate measures to protect habitats.”
This Red List update also highlights several species that have been impacted by habitat destruction, including all 66 threatened chameleon species, despite some of these species occurring within protected areas. The Giant East Usambara Blade-horned Chameleon (Kinyongia matschiei), endemic to the East Usambara mountains of Tanzania, has been listed as Endangered. Like many other chameleons, this species uses colour for communication. It also darkens when stressed and wraps its tail around branches to remain secure. Found in the Amani Nature Reserve, a protected area, this reptile is threatened by the clearance of forests for agriculture, charcoal production and extraction of timber.
The Black Grass-dart Butterfly (Ocybadistes knightorum) has entered the IUCN Red List as Endangered. Found only in the northern New South Wales coastal region of Australia, the species is threatened primarily due to the invasion of introduced weeds and coastal development destroying its habitat. A significant proportion of its habitat exists in protected areas such as Bongil Bongil National Park and Gaagal Wonggan (South Beach) National Park, and the effective management of these areas could play an important role in securing the species’ future. The threat from weed invasion is being managed in some reserves where key habitat patches have responded well to weeding, resulting in successful habitat rehabilitation.
Two species have been declared Extinct due to habitat destruction. Plectostoma sciaphilum, a snail known from a single limestone hill in Peninsular Malaysia is now listed as Extinct as a result of the hill being entirely destroyed by limestone quarrying by a large company. The future of several other species in the region is uncertain for similar reasons. Whilst some mining companies are starting to take the necessary steps to reduce impact, IUCN is urging stronger commitment to prevent further extinctions.
The St Helena Giant Earwig (Labidura herculeana) – the world’s largest known earwig attaining a length of up to 80 mm – has also gone extinct. Previously found in Horse Point Plain, a protected area on St Helena Island, the last confirmed live adult of this insect was seen in May 1967. Since the early 1960s, its habitat has been degraded by the removal of nearly all shelter-providing surface stones for construction purposes. Increased predator pressures from mice, rats and invasive predatory invertebrates also contributed to the earwig’s extinction.
“These recent extinctions could have been avoided through better habitat protection,” says Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “Today’s update also highlights two amphibian species which have improved in status thanks to successful management of Colombia’s Ranita Dorada Reserve, where they occur. We need to take more responsibility for our actions to see many more successes like this one, and to have a positive impact on the health of our planet.”
For more information or interviews please contact:
Ewa Magiera, IUCN Media Relations
+61 (0) 43 40 25 278
Lynne Labanne, IUCN Global Species Programme, IUCN
+41 79 527 7221
IUCN Red List Partner quotes:
“Saving threatened species requires identifying and conserving the most significant sites for nature. BirdLife's Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas are used by governments worldwide to help target the designation of protected areas”, says Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Head of Science.
“We are living in a world where nature is under the gun more than ever before, and we need to recognize nature doesn’t need people. People need nature. These species are important in their own right, but also are essential for our own survival because they are important cogs in the complex and delicate ecosystems that provide human beings with essential ecosystem services such as fresh water, climate regulation, disaster prevention, and many others,” says Dr Russell A. Mittermeier, Executive Vice Chair of Conservation International. “As we enter the 6th World Parks Congress in Sydney, we need to recognize that protected areas are essential for the long-term survival of endangered species, but also are fundamentally important in meeting the major challenges facing our planet, from putting society on a sustainable development path to adapting to climate change. There has never been more urgency to create, effectively manage and finance parks and protected areas than now, and we hope that there will be major commitments made at this Congress to change the scale of protection worldwide - for all the benefits that protected areas provide."
"Of particular concern is the decline of fish like the Pacific Bluefin Tuna due to overexploitation. We have seen the near extinction already of species like the Atlantic Cod due to similar poorly regulated practices. This should be a clear warning signal that we need better regulation and enforcement of marine fisheries, combined with the establishment of marine protected areas that secure important spawning areas to allow for the recovery of severely depleted stocks,” says Dr Thomas Lacher, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University. “The World Parks Congress, currently taking place in Sydney, Australia, is addressing these concerns in numerous sessions and meetings, but we need broad international collaboration to make these plans a reality."
“It is so encouraging to see many plant species being added to the Red List for the first time. Species in the birch family have now been assessed, for example, showing which trees are in urgent need of conservation attention,” says Sara Oldfield, Secretary General, Botanic Gardens Conservation International. “Birches are vital components of temperate ecosystems and we cannot afford to lose any single species.”
Examples of other species that have been added in this update:
Charopa lafargei, listed as Critically Endangered, is a new species of snail discovered at the northern end of Gunung Kanthan, Malaysia. It has been named after the mining company Lafarge recognising that most of the hill is within a concession being quarried by Lafarge Malaysia. The continued existence of this species will depend in large part on the actions of the company.
The Kaputar Pink Slug (Triboniophorus sp. nov. “Kaputar”) is endemic to Mount Kaputar in New South Wales, Australia. It is listed as Endangered based on its restricted range and threats from climate change and habitat loss. The species is naturally very limited in its distribution and habitat requirements, as it occupies the highest parts of Mount Kaputar and as the area increases in temperature and habitats disappear, this species has nowhere to move to. Habitat is being degraded by increased frequency of fire and grazing of feral pigs. Much of the high-elevation wet eucalypt forest on freehold properties bordering the eastern edge of Mount Kaputar National Park has been cleared for agriculture and it is likely that the majority of off-park habitat for this species has been lost.
The Giant Kokopu (Galaxias argenteus), a freshwater fish endemic to New Zealand, has been assessed as Vulnerable. Whilst it is harvested as a component of the domestic whitebait fishery, this species has suffered decline mainly as a result of the loss and degradation of its habitat through drainage of wetlands and straightening of river channel systems. Around 85 to 90% of New Zealand's wetlands have been lost over the last 100 years. There are, however, secure stronghold populations of the species in Rakiura National Park, a protected area on Stewart Island. Conservation measures are being undertaken to save the species from extinction, including shortening of the whitebait season.
Warneckea cordiformis, a flowering plant found in Mozambique, has been listed as Critically Endangered due to habitat clearing for subsistence agriculture and cutting for poles. Namacubi forest, the only known location for the species, is at immediate risk of being bisected by a new road for the oil and gas industry, resulting in increased access to and clearance of the forest. Currently there are no conservation actions recorded for this species and it does not occur in any protected areas.
A North American bumblebee species, Bombus fraternus, has entered the IUCN Red List as Endangered. Its range size and abundance in modern records (2002-2012) have declined by 29% and 86%, respectively, relative to historical records (1805-2001). Habitat loss due to the conversion of grasslands to agriculture is likely the major threat to this species. Much of its range overlaps with prime agricultural areas, particularly for corn production. Pesticide exposure in suitable habitat may also be causing declines. Corn seed in North America is now almost ubiquitously treated with neonicotinoids a pesticide group known to negatively impact bees
Carpinus tientaiensis – Critically Endangered. This species is endemic to China, where it occurs in the Province of Zhejiang. It is rare; only 21 individuals are believed to exist in the wild. Forests in the Zhejiang region are threatened by conversion to bamboo, tea and other commercial plantations. As the population is so small, any loss of habitat will be detrimental to the survival of this species. A small population also makes this species susceptible to stochastic events.
Examples of species that have improved status:
The amphibian species Andinobates dorisswansonae is known only from a single forest fragment in the Cordillera Central of the Colombian Andes. This species was previously listed as Critically Endangered because of habitat loss and degradation caused by cattle grazing, logging and agricultural expansion. The forest fragment where this species occurs is now included in a protected area: the Ranita Dorada Amphibian Reserve, which was established in 2008. This reserve is currently well protected, thereby abating continued habitat loss for this species. There are ongoing restoration efforts underway, along with an environmental education program to generate awareness of the species within the local community. This protection has resulted in the species being down-listed to Vulnerable. It is vital to this species that this reserve continues to be well managed to prevent future habitat loss.
Andinobates tolimensis is another amphibian species that is also known only from the Cordillera Central of the Colombian Andes. Previously listed as Endangered, this species has now been down-listed to Vulnerable. The threat from habitat loss and degradation caused by agricultural activities in the area are no longer as severe because the species’ entire range is now included within the Ranita Dorada Amphibian Reserve. It is vital to this species that this reserve continues to be well managed to prevent future habitat loss.