By Rahul Pathak, Jun 19, 2021 11:00
The marine ecosystem comprises of millions of plants, animals, bacteria and other micro-living organisms living under the water. All these marine species live in close harmony and are heavily inter-dependent. However, the marine ecosystem is losing its balance with many underwater species facing extinction, thanks to increased resource extraction from nature. Here is a list of five species are on the verge of extinction and enlisted in the ‘endangered’ category by the United Nations.
Vaquita (Phoecona Sinus)
Vaquita is the world’s rarest marine mammal that can be found in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. These mammals are small, round-headed and have dark rings around their eyes. They exist as both predator and prey in their natural habitat. Vaquita can live for at least 21 years. Sited first on the globe only a half-century ago, the population of Vaquita has seen a sharp decline from 567 in 1997 to be less than ten now. The main culprit behind their deteriorating population is illegal and unregulated fishing. They are often sold illegally to China for millions of dollars as it is a belief that consuming Vaquita helps cure infertility.
Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
Known to be the largest animal to have ever existed on the planet, blue whales can be as long as three school buses and as heavy as 15 school buses. Moreover, with 188 decibels, they have one of the loudest calls after sperm whales. They usually have a lifespan of 80-90 years. Whales are hunted for their meat, fat, bones, and other body parts. A report by the British Antarctic Survey revealed that 1,76,000 whales got killed over a time span of 60 years by the whaling industry. In 1986, commercial whaling was banned to protect them. However, some countries are still involved in hunting whales for commercial purposes. At present, there are only 25,000 whales on earth.
Hawaiian Monk Seal (Neomonachus Schauinslandi)
The ‘endangered’ Hawaiian monk seals live in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The skin folds of these marine species resemble a monk’s cowl. That’s the reason behind their nomenclature. Their average life span is between 25 and 30 years. With only 1500 Hawaiian Monk Seals left now, the world has witnessed a 20% decline in its population in a decade. Rising Sea level due to climate change is putting their habitat and food supply in jeopardy. Other factors contributing to the declining population of these underwater animals are deliberate killing, fishing gear and mobbing. Mediterranean and Caribbean Monk Seals are two other species of warm-water monk seals. Caribbean Monk Seals are extinct now.
Green sea turtle (Cheloniamydas)
It is the largest hard-shelled sea turtle found in tropical and sub-tropical water. The greenish tint of its fat has earned Green Sea Turtles their name. They are only the herbivores of sea turtle species and depend on algae and sea grass for food. Like all turtles, they can travel a long-distance and use the earth’s magnetic field for navigation. They can live for 60-70 years and are found mainly in temperate latitudes and areas with tropical climate. Over the years, the population of Green Sea Turtles has witnessed a rapid decline and reached dangerously low levels. The causes include direct killing, harvesting of eggs, accidentally capturing them in fishing gear and increasing pollution levels.
Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopiasjubatus)
Steller Sea Lion is the largest member of the eared seals family known as ‘Otarridae’. Named after the German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, this species of sea lion originated in the 17th century. Steller sea lions are predators and are dependent on fish for food. They originated in the North Pacific Ocean. However, their numbers start declining when humans started hunting them for meat, oil and other products.