IUCN today released the latest update of their Red List of Threatened Species, on the eve of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The list shows that of the 63,837 species assessed an alarming 19,817 are threatened with extinction: that’s over 30%!

Marble RayIn some parts of the world up to 90% of coastal populations obtain much of their food and earn their primary income through fishing; yet overfishing has reduced some commercial fish stocks by over 90%. 36% of skates and rays are threatened with extinction.

More than 275 million people are dependent on coral reefs for food, coastal protection and livelihoods. Globally, coral reef fisheries are worth US$ 6.8 billion annually, but 33% of reef building corals are threatened with extinction. IUCN insist that coral reefs must be managed sustainably to ensure they continue to provide the essential food that millions of people rely on as a source of protein.

Humphead wrasseOverfishing affects 55% of the world’s reefs and 18% of groupers, an economically important family of large reef fish, are threatened. Groupers and wrasses are largely dependent on rocky and coral reefs. Many are long-lived and slow-growing. Despite the fact that most species produce large numbers of eggs each year, rates of population growth are slow, and evidence is growing that many species can only withstand light levels of fishing pressure. The high value of many species, however, makes them a particularly appealing target. Fishing is not only directed towards adults, juveniles are also taken as ornamentals and for mariculture. Indeed, in Southeast Asia, millions of juveniles are targeted annually to supply the mariculture industry.

“The services and economic value that species provide are irreplaceable and essential to our wellbeing,” says Jon Paul Rodríguez, Deputy Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC). “Unless we live within the limits set by nature, and manage our natural resources sustainably, more and more species will be driven towards extinction. If we ignore our responsibility we will compromise our own survival.”

“Most of the drivers of biodiversity loss, including species extinctions, are economic in nature,” commented Dr Simon Stuart, Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission. “An economy can only be described as ‘green’ if it promotes the achievement of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets that governments agreed on in 2010.”

Further Reading:
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012.1