Our eco-system is comprised of interdependent animals and plants which constitute a complex web of life, where the extinction of a single species may affect the whole biological system pertaining to life and living things. Unfortunately the unprecedented unnatural extinction of many marine species including marine mammals, sea turtles and salmonids has not only endangered functioning of the ecosystem but also affected the ecological issues by large extent. The reasons for this threat to marine life are varied but mostly due to irrational human behaviour and activities.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists three hundred and sixty eight marine species which are either endangered already or vulnerable of becoming endangered very soon. Some of these majorly endangered and recognizable marine species are named here. Take a look:
1. Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate)
Found in the tropical regions of all the world’s oceans, gulfs and seas, this Hawksbill Turtle’s population has been estimated to have declined by 80% over the last century. Known to be a subject of heavy trafficking in the tourist trade in tropical regions for its meat and shells, these are being killed mercilessly for quite a period of time.
Even though in many countries harvesting of its eggs is banned, the practice could not be ceased completely. The declination of its population has also resulted due to the degradation of coral reef species which the Hawksbill Turtle primarily feed on.
2. Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)
Evidently the largest member of the Otariid family and the fourth largest of all seal species, these eared seal could be located in the cold coastal waters of the North Pacific. But since 1960s its population has declined by more than 60% due to both natural and human threats.
The high risk of predation by Killer Whales and fishing and harvest by Native Alaskans and Canadians for meat, oil, hides and other by-products make this marine life vulnerable to endanger.
3. Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
Traced in the tropical regions of the oceans around the world, these are subjected to being victimized for its fin. Even the process itself is horrifying as the sharks are caught by fishermen, dragged on board and is cut off their fins while they are still breathing.
The remaining carcass is thrown into the water and eventually it bleeds to death. Albeit there is a ban imposed upon shark finning in many countries, the result has been abortive as the demand and high price paid for it in the Asian market drives the illegal harvest system, endangering these marine species’ survival.
4. Vaquita (Phoeocna sinus)
An inhabitant of the shallow, murky waters off the shore of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, Vaquita is the world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean. Extensive use of gill-netting for fishing has endangered this marine species, resulting in a gradual drop in population since 1940s.
The gill-netting operation may have been ceased to exist in 1970, but the population fall persist for as much as 15% every year. With an estimated 500-600 individual the Vaquita is soon to be found extinct if the declination prevails.
5. Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
The largest living mammal on earth, the blue whale could be found migrating from both poles in the oceans around the world. But the excessive commercial hunting has helped its population decrease drastically and now has posed a threat to its mere existence even though an international ban was constituted in 1966.
A study says around 200,000 blue whales have been killed which has left them with an existing number of 3000-5000. Conservation efforts and security measures in effort to save this marine species have been undertaken.
6. Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris)
The largest of all living sirenians, the Florida Manatee resides in fresh water rivers, in estuaries, and in the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Loss of habitat, high rate of stillbirths and intoxication by pesticides and herbicides are the main concern for this endangered ocean animal.
They also often killed accidentally by sailing boats because of their slow pace and covertness. Approximately only 3,200 Florida Manatees are believed to be alive.
7. Hawaiian Monk Seal (Monachus schauinslandi)
Found mostly found around the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, these seals have been facing threats from disturbing human activities for the sake of meat, oil and skin, the ciguatera poisoning, dominating number of males than females, starvation, predation of Tiger sharks and Galapagos sharks etc which have eventually endangered their species.
Hawaiian Monk Seals often get entangled in fishing nets and debris and get killed. Only about an 1100 number of seals are left striving for existence.
8. Kemp’s Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)
Migrating between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is the rarest sea turtle and is endangered to a severe degree. Only 500 of this marine species are believed to be surviving the habitat loss, marine pollution, and entanglement in fishing nets.
Harvesting of eggs have been made illegal and research projects of incubating and hatching the eggs in temperature-controlled rooms have been undertaken to save this endangered marine species.
9. Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)
One of the larger rorqual species, these baleen whales are found in oceans and seas around the globe and can migrate up to 25,000 kilometres a year. Before the introduction of whaling moratorium in 1966 these species ere hunt to extinction for its fur and flesh for meat, while the population dropped by 90%.
Today it is believed to be surviving with a number of around 2,500 worldwide. However accidental entanglement in shrimping gear, collisions with vessels, and marine pollution still remain main concerns for its endangerment.
10. Fraser’s Dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei)
Found mostly in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean and to lesser extent in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, this cetacean in the Delphinidae family is poised against the threats of Hunting, entanglement in fishing nets and marine environmental changes. However until late 1970s it was believed this marine species were vulnerable and endangered.
Recent conservation measures depicts that it is not too much to worry about. The Fraser’s dolphins are hunted illegally for commercial shipping business with their meat. There are still remains more to be explored about its marine life.
A Word of Caution-
Apart from these mammals and turtles, salmonids and seabirds too have confronted the menace of endangered ocean species. The Maritime Mammal Protection Act (MMPA-1972) and The Endangered Species Act (ESA-1973) have contributed so far to salvage this ocean life but it requires adequate knowledge about these issues and the transcendence of the human behaviour in accordance to that, which can inevitably make a difference for these ocean endangered species.
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