It is just unconscionable that this could be allowed to happen and all I hear in national news outlets is about well off folks some billionaires trying to gain more power.
Clean water is a basic human right! It’s a damn shame some go without. #Hate it!
In a news release earlier this month, the IUCN revealed that increasing anthropogenic pressures (such as fishing and boat strikes) have caused the rapid decline of whale shark populations and that they should now be considered as endangered.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species. The IUCN Red List evaluates the extinction risk of thousands of species based on a precise set of criteria, and the resulting evaluation aims to convey the urgency of conservation of a species to the public and policy makers.
Previously, whale sharks were ‘vulnerable’ to extinction, but their status has now been updated to ‘endangered.’ Their numbers have more than halved over the last 75 years as these sharks continue to be fished and killed by ship propellers.
Dr. Simon Pierce and Dr. Brad Norman, two prominent whale shark scientists have spent decades studying the animals and have co-authored the assessment that led to IUCN’s update.
“In our recent assessment, it was established that numbers have decreased more than 50 per cent in three generations – which we estimate to be about 75 years,” Norman explained. “The numbers on a global scale are really concerning.”
The main stressor to these gentle giants is the intense fishing pressure in several countries, including China and Oman, especially for shark-fin soup. Some other nations such as India, the Philippines and Taiwan have started implementing conservation plans and have ended large-scale fishing of whale sharks. While these efforts are admirable, it is now really important to push for more regional protection in these countries and to push other countries to try to save this species.
Whale sharks have been hard to study and to keep track off as they are quite cryptic and disappear into the open ocean fairly quickly. However with the use of modern technology and tagging devices, it has become a lot easier to follow them, collect information on them, but also to realize what kind of threats they are facing.
The species is just one step away from being critically endangered, an IUCN listing that is very hard to come back from.
“We cannot sit back and fail to implement direct actions to minimize threats facing whale sharks at the global scale,” said Norman, “It is clear that this species is in trouble.”
Wolves can shape the ecosystem and
physical geography of the land they live
on. When wolves were reintroduced into
Yellowstone National Park in ‘95 after a
70-year absence, trees grew faster,
animal populations increased, and rivers
even changed their behavior because
new vegetation helped reduce erosion. SourceSource 2Source 3
I spent Thanksgiving in western North Carolina – the home of the Blue Ridge Mountains, American idol winner Caleb Johnson, and a strange looking creature called the hellbender. It’s the canary in the coal mine for Appalachia’s streams, and Appalachia’s streams aren’t doing so well, so hellbenders are near threatened.
I know all this because I watched a beautiful short film all about them and the efforts to keep them safe. It was produced by Freshwaters Illustrated in partnership with the US Forest Service and it is 9 minutes long - definitely worth a watch.
Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo, is coming out today, June 17th 2016. A few years ago, Finding Nemo was such a massive success that it drove demand for pet clownfish through the roof, and resulted in hurting the wild population, instead of fostering an appreciation for marine animals in their natural habitats. Over 90% of the clownfish sold came from the big, blue sea! Let’s avoid doing the exact same thing with Dory, shall we?
The case of Dory, or the case of blue tangs, is a bit different from clownfish. A “Finding Nemo effect” and a similar pet-trade boom could have catastrophic results for this species.
First of all, blue tangs aren’t bred in captivity. Blue tangs are pelagic spawners, meaning that they need sufficient space to breed and mate in mid-water columns. Once the eggs are hatched in captivity, it is extremely difficult to keep them alive. This means that every blue tang you will see in tanks or at the pet store has been taken from the wild.
Second of all, chances are they were taken illegally. Regulations and their enforcement vary from country to country, but live saltwater fish like Dory are too often illegally collected using sodium cyanide as a liquid stun gun. For clownfish, scientists have witnessed local extinctions in areas they were collected in, and to the destruction of reefs and other species with this method.
Moreover, very little is actually known about the species. Subsequently, researchers don’t know if the blue tang population would be able to withstand increased demand after the movie release.
Behavioral ecologist Culum Brown works on fish cognition and welfare, and he reveals what is known about the species in an interview with NPR:
“You’ll be shocked to discover that we actually know very little about cognition in blue tangs. Correction … make that nothing. But that is true for the vast majority of the 32+ thousand species of fish out there.
"We know that their skin reflects light at 490nm (deep blue) and they tend to get lighter at night (this is under hormone control). They have very sharp spines on either side of their tail which erect when [the fish are] frightened. They have a huge distribution (Indo-Pacific) but are under threat from illegal collection. They graze algae on coral reefs, which is a very important job because it prevents the corals from being over-grown.”
So what can you do to save Nemo and Dory?
If you must have a clownfish in your tank, make sure it was bred sustainably in captivity and not taken from the wild. As for having a Dory, you get it, it’s a big no-no. Keep Dory on the reef.
The aquarium industry harvests more than 1 million clownfish from their natural habitats every year so they can be sold as pets. This overharvesting, along with other stressors like global warming, is likely leading to the depletion of clownfish populations in places like the Philippines and the Great Barrier Reef.
Captive breeding has proved to be a sustainable alternative that can meet the demands for ornamental fish like Nemo, without hurting the reef’s populations. Tank Watchis also an app that helps you identify the captive-bred (good) from the wild-caught (bad) fish.
While you go out and see this movie over the weekend, remember to educate yourself on the many species represented (including a whale shark and a beluga whale!). Many of them are under some sort of threat in the wild. All of these species are better off out in the sea, so if you fall in love with one of them and instead of taking Dory out of the ocean, I hope you moviegoers will support research, education and conservation!
A new study published in Science from scientists at the University of Copenhagen have estimated that Greenland sharks can live up to be 400 years old! The team used radiocarbon dating and analyzed the ages of proteins built up in 28 female sharks’ eye lenses, and thus was able to estimate their ages. This revealed a life span of at least 272 years. Since they live to be so old, they don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re about 150.
The largest shark in the study was 16.5 feet (five meters) in length and was estimated to be approximately 392 years old. There is some uncertainty with this number though but the researchers did determine with a 95% certainty that this shark was between 272 and 512 years old, and most likely around 390.
Greenland sharks can be found swimming slowly throughout the cold, deep waters of the North Atlantic. They are essentially blind but have a fantastic sense of smell which allows them to hunt. This new finding makes these sharks the longest-living vertebrates on the planet, beating the 211-year-old bowhead whale which was holding the previous record.