10 October 2008

Groupers nearly gone

Twenty grouper species were assessed as threatened with extinction, in the WWF's report on ‘Nurseries of the seas’ needing protection.

The IUCN has for the first time assessed all 161 species of grouper, a reef fish which makes up a large part of the lucrative live fish trade in the Coral Triangle.

The survival of species critical to the livelihoods of millions - such as those in the "nusery grounds" of the Coral Triangle - is being called into question.

The Coral Triangle spans Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste, and contains 75 per cent of the world’s coral species, as well as critical spawning grounds for globally valuable species such as reef fish and tuna.

(They missed us out: Singapore is part of the Coral Triangle too. Alas, we are part of the problem too).

“The huge demand for live reef fish among wealthy consumers in China and in Chinese communities around the world is a major contributor to the overfishing of these species.”

The IUCN also lists other Coral Triangle species at risk of extinction, such as green turtles (Endangered), hawksbill turtles (Critically endangered) and scalloped hammerheads (Near threatened).

Another report released today by the United Nation’s Environmental Programme further emphasises the need for greater focus on the conservation of marine areas.

“The Coral Triangle is the world’s centre of marine life, on a par with the Amazon Rainforest or the Congo Basin in terms of its importance to life on Earth. We need to recognise that the same level of threat exists in our oceans as it does on the land,”.

WWF’s Coral Triangle Programme has goals for 2020 of protecting 10 per cent of priority coral reefs in the region, zero decline in sea turtle populations from 2007 levels, and reversing the degradation of the area’s marine resources, including turtles, tuna and reef fish.

In other news, NOAA announced that its Coral Bleaching Monitoring Network has gone global.

NOAA's Coral Reef Watch bleaching monitoring network has expanded its network of "virtual stations" from 24 to 190 locations worldwide. These stations warn coral reef managers when there is an elevated risk of coral bleaching, based on temperature data from NOAA’s environmental satellites.

The satellite alert system provides approximately two weeks’ advance warning before bleaching occurs, giving reef managers time to respond.

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