Which Endangered Aquatic Animals Need Our Attention?

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Diving Into Levels of Endangerment

By Sisilia Pauu

The phrase “endangered species’ is often used in the media or on the news. But do you have a real grasp of what it means? Or how the struggle these animals face affects you? or maybe how you can help to make a change for the better?

Let’s explore the three main categories of threats that some of our aquatic friends face today. There are actually 7 levels of endangerment total: 

1. Least Concern.
2. Near Threatened.
3. Vulnerable Species.
4. Endangered Species.
5. Critically Endangered. 
6. Extinct in the wild. 
7. Extinct. 

Number 3-5 are the three major categories we’re exploring. Getting a better idea of how bad things are for these animals will help you understand why you should care. Let’s dive in.

A Few Vulnerable And Endangered Ocean Animals

Vulnerable and Endangered species are animals that have seen either a 30-50% decline in their population or a 50-70% decline. These are animals that can have a very high chance of going extinct within the next 20-100 years if things remain as they are. Some examples of vulnerable or endangered species are:
 
●     Dugong
●     Blue Whale
●     Bluefin Tuna

Dugong (Vulnerable).

 

These fluffy-looking guys are NOT to be confused with the manatee. They may look very similar, but they’re completely different animals. It’s obvious from the photo but these animals are as gentle and friendly as they’re large. They’re vegetarians, eating mostly seagrass. But, even still, adult Dugongs reach up to 1,000 lbs and they spend their whole lives in the ocean.

Found off the coast of East Africa and all the way to Australia, they make their home in warm shallow waters. They’re also found in the Pacific, Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea, attracting lots of tourism to many coastal destinations. 

What is driving the decline in Dugong numbers? It’s the loss of habitat. Seagrass makes up their whole diet and is slowly degrading due to coastal industrialization— leading to water pollution. The lack of seagrass for them to eat affects their ability to breed and reproduce.

Blue Whale (Endangered).

 

The biggest animal to EVER have lived here on earth. Yes, even bigger than dinosaurs! These colossal mammals of the sea are incredible swimmers and have an appetite for some of the ocean’s smallest creatures: krill. 

To get a better understanding of how big blue whales are, the size of an adult whale’s heart is as big as a four passenger car. And their tongues alone weigh up to one fully grown elephant. They grow to the length of three school busses and weigh as much as 440,000 lbs, that’s the weight of 33 adult elephants combined!

Besides being the largest animal on the planet, they also hold the title of the loudest animal on earth. They communicate with one another using super low pitched sounds that travel up to 994 miles. They rank highest on the marine food chain and have a very important role in the health of our oceans. 

What’s Hurting The Blue Whale?
Before whaling became a thing, the number of whales was believed to be more than 250,000 throughout the world. Nowadays their numbers are estimated to be lower than 25,000 worldwide. While whaling has been banned since 1966, the blue whale is still one of the rarest of its kind.

Another recurring threat to the blue whale is vessel collisions. There have been many collisions reported and even more that go unreported. Many of the whale migration routes intersect with cargo routes making this happen more often than not. 

Micheal Fishbach (Executive Director of the Great Whale Conservancy) said “If we had all these whales floating around on the water and showing up on beaches nobody would stand for this”. Ship strikes are among the leading causes of human-related whale deaths and it’s still a huge problem for the species to this day.

Bluefin Tuna (Endangered).

 

When you think of tuna you probably don’t think “a top predator”, but the Bluefin Tuna is exactly that. When it comes to the marine food chain these fish rank near the top. They play a huge role in keeping a healthy balanced ecosystem within our oceans. They’re found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean seas. 

Bluefin Tuna are highly sought after for their meat. Not the meat you find in a tuna can; this is the good stuff you’d eat at a nice sushi restaurant. Because of the huge demand for their meat, it’s no surprise that they’re categorized as endangered.

The Atlantic bluefin tuna has seen a decline of 85% and according to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) there are about 25,000 individual mature bluefin tuna remaining in the Atlantic. 

Overfishing is the reason for the decline in the bluefin population. To meet the high demand for bluefin tuna, fishermen have been hunting them down relentlessly. Considered a delicacy in Asia, once a bluefin was sold for $1.75 million. Prices like this are what drive fishermen to continue to overfish despite the laws and regulations that are in place to protect these sea creatures.

One Critically Endangered Porpoise

To categorize as critically endangered, a species population would have to meet these criteria:
 
●     A decline of 80%-90% within its population.
●     Have less than 250 adults still alive in the wild.
●     A high probability of becoming extinct within the next ten years or three generations.

Vaquita

 

With a name that translates literally to “small cow,” the Vaquita is the smallest porpoises of their kind and are the size of small humans. Growing to become about 5 feet long and 250 lbs they’re known to be super shy and difficult to track down. Vaquita makes their home in the Northern Gulf of California where they have quickly come to the brink of extinction.  

The Vaquita’s decline is a direct result of the illegal overfishing of Totoaba. Known to some as “cocaine of the sea”, Totoaba is highly sought after by the black market for their swim bladders. The nets that are laid for the Totoaba are what has brought the Vaquita to its current status of endangerment. One out of five Vaquitas drowns after getting caught in the gillnets set for the Totoaba. 

Scientists have estimated that there are between 6-22 left in the Gulf of California. It’s also presumed that they will not be around in the next year or two. You can read more about the Vaquitas and their struggle here.

Ready to Start Helping Endangered Ocean Animals?

The consequences of losing these creatures are far-reaching. Their absence in the world will be heavily felt throughout the earth’s delicate ecosystem. And while you may not feel the repercussions of it now, your posterity will. 

You may be reading this in the comfort of your own home hundreds of miles away from the ocean thinking— how can I lend a hand? Well, it could be as simple as a few clicks. 

If you’re like most people you probably spend a large chunk of your money and time on Amazon. Did you know that you can help our environment and oceans with every purchase you make? Simply take two minutes to adjust the recipient for your Amazon Smile account to Ocean Blue Project. A portion of what you spend will be donated to us.

With your donations, Ocean Blue Project is able to aid in the conservation of our oceans and their animals, so every penny counts.  

Author bio: Sisilia Pauu is a copywriter for the e-commerce industry based out of Utah. She attributes her love for the ocean and its inhabitants to her Pacific Islander roots and Tongan heritage.