Guitarfish Are Now The Most Critically Endangered Marine Family

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A white-spotted guitarfish - one of the listed rays

The annual update of the IUCN Red List of endangered species was released today and it makes for grim reading with almost 9,000 new species being added bringing the total to 105,732 and not a single species was recorded as having improved in status. The update reveals the life in our oceans and rivers is particularly at risk.

Guitarfish are now the most imperilled fish family with 15 of its 16 species now critically endangered - that is threatened with imminent extinction. Guitarfish - a type of ray - are being exterminated by unregulated commercial fishing where they are then thrown away as worthless bycatch.

More than 500 deepwater bony fish such as lanternfish have been added to the list. They are increasingly at risk from seabed mining, deep fishing and oil and gas exploration. Another victim of our exploitation of the ocean depths is the scaly-foot snail, the first mollusc that lives on hydrothermal vents to be assessed as endangered.

potential impacts from deep sea mining

An IUCN graphic showing the possible impacts of deepsea mining

The list shows that half of the freshwater species known in Japan are now threatened and more than a third of those found in Mexico's rivers and lakes face imminent extinction. The biggest cause is thought to be the demand for water for agriculture. A recent study revealed that two-thirds of the world's main rivers no longer flow freely.

'The loss of these freshwater fish species would deprive billions of people of a critical source of food and income, said William Darwall, head of the IUCN freshwater biodiversity unit. 'It could also have a knock-on effect on entire ecosystems.'

Overall the list reveals that the earth's natural life-support systems are in rapid decline. Wildlife populations on the planet have dropped by 60 per cent since 1970.





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