The latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reveals two species of Manta Ray are vulnerable, and the situation is particularly serious for tunas.
Until recently only one species of Manta Ray was known, but new comparisons of field observations now reveal that there are actually two species of ‘manta’: the Reef Manta Ray (Manta alfredi) and the Giant Manta Ray (Manta birostris), both of which are now classified as Vulnerable. The Giant Manta Ray is the largest living ray, which can grow to more than seven meters across. Manta Ray products have a high value in international trade markets and targeted fisheries hunt them for their valuable gill rakers used in traditional Chinese medicine. Monitoring and regulation of the exploitation and trade of both manta ray species is urgently needed, as well as protection of key habitats.
The situation is also particularly serious for tunas. Five of the eight species of tuna are in the threatened or Near Threatened categories. These include: Southern Bluefin (Thunnus maccoyii), Critically Endangered; Atlantic Bluefin (T. thynnus), Endangered; Bigeye (T. obesus), Vulnerable; Yellowfin (T. albacares), Near Threatened; and Albacore (T. alalunga), Near Threatened. The IUCN declare that this information will be invaluable in helping governments make decisions which will safeguard the future of these species, many of which are of extremely high economic value.
“The IUCN Red List is critical as an indicator of the health of biodiversity, in identifying conservation needs and informing necessary changes in policy and legislation to drive conservation forward,” says Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director of IUCN’s Global Species Programme. “The world is full of marvelous species that are rapidly moving towards becoming things of myth and legend if conservation efforts are not more successfully implemented.
Among the marine species classified as critically endangered – the most serious risk category – are staghorn and elkhorn coral, the hawksbill turtle and the Mediterranean Monk Seal. At the moment, though, the marine realm is very poorly covered in the IUCN Red List, comprising less than 5% of the species included. The IUCN has thus identified priority taxonomic groups of marine fish, invertebrates, plants and seaweeds. If these priority groups can be assessed, the number of marine species on the IUCN Red List will be increased more than six-fold, giving a much more accurate picture