The dugong sea cows are said to have inspired the myth of the mermaid. Now they are threatened with extinction. (archive image)
The World Conservation Union (IUCN), which maintains the Red List of Threatened Species, reported on Friday. Another population around New Caledonia with fewer than 900 adults has been classified as critically endangered.
The biggest threats include fishing nets, oil and gas activities in the sea, marine pollution and the destruction of offshore seaweed on which dugongs feed. This is due, among other things, to sewage that gets into the sea and pollution from the mining of nickel. The IUCN calls for the improvement of fisheries regulation, alternative income opportunities for coastal residents and protection zones.
The Red List, which has been in existence since 1964, contains more than 42,000 animal and plant species that are threatened with extinction. The IUCN classifies studied species into eight categories, from “data insufficient” to “extinct”. “Endangered” is level 5, “Critically Endangered” is level 6.
The IUCN has also had abalone examined for the first time, pinna-like snails that are considered a delicacy in many places. 20 of the 54 known species have been classified as “critically endangered”. They are threatened by poachers, diseases and pollution, as well as by the consequences of climate change. For example, 99 percent of the Haliotis roei species died off due to more frequent and more intense marine heat waves in north-western Australia.
IUCN presented the new list at the 15th World Summit on Nature (also COP15) in Montréal, Canada, where an agreement to protect biodiversity on earth is to be decided. “We simply cannot afford to fail,” said IUCN Director-General Bruno Oberle.
According to the head of the Swiss delegation, Ambassador Franz Perrez, there are still many differences between the states: “We are in a very difficult situation,” Perrez said on Friday on Swiss Radio SRF’s “Rendez-vous” program.
From his point of view it would be important to discuss the central questions at the level of the heads of delegations in order to make progress. According to the radio report, there are still more than 1,000 points in the first negotiation text where there is disagreement.
The explorer Columbus reported mermaids in 1493. Today it is assumed that it was dugongs that can emerge vertically from the sea. They were not half as beautiful as described, but had “male features” in their faces, quoted the magazine “National Geographic” in an article from Columbus’ notes.