Contributor: Aisha Jamaloodeen
Oceans make up about 71% of the whole planet, and comprise of a myriad of fauna & flora, which are interdependent and contribute to the ocean biodiversity. The Census of Marine Life estimates that there are more than 230,000 species of marine life, and it may be hard to imagine that the extinction of a few species will have any impact on the rest of the ocean and its inhabitants. Sadly, the extinction of even one species has a knock-on effect on other sea life and contributes to the degradation of the fragile ecosystems.
Extinction can be the result of natural causes, however, it is increasing at an alarming rate; the WWF claims that current rate is at least 1000 times higher than the natural rate. The threat to marine life is now mostly linked to human activity. Increasing human population, destruction of natural habitats, pollution and climate change all have a negative impact on how the ecosystems function and accelerate the rate of extinction of fish, turtles and other sea mammals.
The following five marine species are on the brink of extinction:
This beautiful species of turtle is found in tropical seas and has been around for over a million years. It is now endangered and its population is estimated to have decreased by 80 percent over the last century. It is still being killed for its meat and beautiful shells, which are used in ornaments and jewellery pieces in some parts of eastern Asia, and its eggs are stolen and sold in various parts of the world, despite the international ban on killing the turtle and harvesting its eggs.
Its decline is also the result of pollution, climate change and coastal development which destroy its feeding and nesting sites.
The UK is the second biggest consumer of tuna after the US, and is consumed by millions of people around the world. Bluefin tuna is especially popular in the sushi market in Japan and overfishing has depleted the population by more than 90 percent over the last decade, increasing its price. According to Greenpeace, one single Bluefin was sold for the astronomical price of $173,600 in Japan, setting the world Guinness record for the most expensive fish sold at an auction!
Other species of tuna, mainly the Bigeye and Yellowfin tuna, are also in danger of being over exploited and becoming endangered. Advances in fishing methods mean that more fish is being caught at an unsustainable pace and if we are careless the same fate awaits the skipjack tuna, which is what our tinned tuna is made up of.
The magnificent blue whale is the largest living mammal on our planet, and has been the target of whaling until 1966 when an international whaling ban was enforced. The current population is estimated at around 3000, down from 200,000. Although whaling is no longer a threat, blue whales are wounded and killed accidentally by colliding with the increasing amount of container ships in the ocean. Climate change and pollution pose a further threat by destroying their main food source, krill.
The Maui dolphin is the smallest of all dolphin species and is found in New Zealand. It is estimated that there are only 63 Maui dolphins over the age of one year old remaining, and they have now been classified as a critically endangered species. Their slow breeding rate, in addition to harmful fishing practices, is causing accidental capture and the destruction of their natural habitat.
Hammerhead sharks are found mostly in tropical waters, and are estimated to have decreased by more than 80 percent in number. The main culprit is overfishing; hammerhead sharks are caught for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup. Although shark fin soup has been banned in the European Union, the US and Australia, it is still very popular in Asia and illegal fishing continues to this day. They also get caught accidentally in fishing nets.
Causes of sea life extinction and preventive measures
Although the negative impacts on marine life are accelerating, there is still hope that we can reverse them by adopting the right measures. Read on to learn about some of the main causes of extinction and how we can tackle them.
Unsustainable fishing methods
The biggest threat to marine life is overfishing. Fish and other marine animals are over-harvested, leaving no time for population sizes to reach acceptable levels. Often, the method of fishing used also accidentally catches turtles, sharks and other endangered species. It is more important than ever to be conscious consumers and support brands that are investing in sustainable fishing and offering fair deals to developing countries.
Destruction of natural habitat
As human population increases, so does the industrialisation of coastal regions, and this invariably destroys nesting and feeding places of the local fauna. Some places are now being protected from human activity to allow endangered species to recover, and we can do our bit to help by not disturbing nesting places on beaches & the sea.
Pollution, including noise pollution
Oil spills, chemical detergents and other man-made products like plastics find their way in the oceans providing a toxic combination, which affects the growth and reproduction of certain marine species. Sea animals are also sensitive to noise pollution; noise caused by ships distorts the sound waves they rely on underwater to carry out activities like searching for food or watching out for predators.
Find eco-friendly alternatives to detergents and packaging; use natural & organic products and opt for plastic-free packing.
Climate change and global warming
Climate changes happen so fast nowadays that marine life has no time to adapt to their new environments and most often do not survive the extreme changes. For example, coral reefs have been reduced by about 40 percent across the world due to global warming, and migration of some species has been witnessed due to water temperatures rising. There is a lot that we can do in our everyday lives to cut back on carbon emissions; use cleaner energy sources, avoid wasting energy at home, and practice the reduce–reuse-recycle principle.
On a final note, perhaps the most important tool we can use to prevent the destruction of our oceans and their inhabitants is education and raising awareness of how we’re impacting marine life and how we can save it.
Bio: Software developer in her day job, Aisha dedicates her spare time to gardening or learning aromatherapy, and loves creating her own DIY skincare. She is passionate about everything natural and promotes an organic and ethical lifestyle via her small venture as NYR Organic consultant. Instagram: ailoveorganic | Twitter: @nyro_aishaj | Website: uk.nyrorganic.com/shop/aishaj
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