Sunday, 22 May 2016

'Canaries' of the ocean highlight threat to world's ecosystems


Date: May 20, 2016
Source: Newcastle University

Fifty-nine finfish species have 'disappeared' from fishermen's catches in the world's most species rich and vulnerable marine region, new research has shown.

In the largest study of its kind, experts from Newcastle University, UK, have highlighted the impact that uncontrolled fishing in particular is having on coral reefs.

Drawing on the knowledge of local fishermen in the Philippines, the team were able to build a picture of how finfish populations have declined over the last 65 years.

Recording 59 species that were once common and have now disappeared from catches, the team highlighted five finfish that are now fighting for survival -- the green bumphead parrotfish, the humphead wrasse, the African pompano, the giant grouper and the mangrove red snapper. Publishing their findings this week in the science journal PLOS ONE, the report coincides with Endangered Species Day and highlights the "urgent need for action."

Lead scientist Nick Polunin, Professor or Environmental Science at Newcastle University, explains: "Most of us still think that nature is unlimited in the oceans.""But our coral reefs are good sentinels of global ocean change, and like the canary in the coal mine, they're telling us there's not much time left for action.

"These losses we've recorded in the Philippines are reflective of unsustainable exploitation affecting this exceptionally species rich ecosystem and region but they mirror what is happening in ecosystems around the globe.

"In the forests of India and Bangladesh it's the tigers and in China it's the Giant Panda; here in the Philippines we are showing that marine species are also very vulnerable. The list of endangered species is growing and we're very close to the tipping point."

Coral reefs occupy less than one percent of the marine area but they are home to 25 percent of all known marine fish species.

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