19th May is Endangered Species Day, and because we care deeply about conservation and protecting our world’s oceans, we thought it would be great opportunity to raise awareness of some endangered aquatic species.
So, what qualifies as an endangered species? Put simply, it is any species that is likely to become extinct, with further sub-categories defining how close to extinction the species currently is.
North Atlantic Right Whale
North Atlantic right whales are baleen whales that can each weigh up to 70 tonnes and span over 43ft.
Despite protection from whaling since the 1930s, they are still at risk of being caught in fishing gear. Currently, they can only be found on the east coast of the USA and Canada.
Vaquitas are a type of porpoise, and are currently the world’s rarest marine mammals. This species is native to the Gulf of California, and was only discovered in 1958.
Sadly, the population has plummeted due to illegal fishing, and it is believed that now there are only around 30 of these mammals left altogether.
Like other species of sea turtle, hawksbill turtles are threatened by loss of habitat, climate change, and the collection of their eggs for consumption. Worryingly, harvesting them for domestic trade still occurs in certain countries.
Hawksbill turtles, named as such for their narrow pointed beaks, are important in maintaining the health of coral reefs by removing predators from their surface.
Weighing up to 173 tonnes, blue whales are the largest known animals to have ever existed. Each one has a heart the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
The biggest threats to their survival are chemical pollution, loss of habitat, and loss of food-supply. Due to climate change, their main source of food – krill – has dwindled in numbers.
Scalloped Hammerhead Shark
Endangered due to overfishing, the scalloped hammerhead shark has been been targeted for its fins, which are regularly sold in the international shark-fin trade.
They were the first shark species to be protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which is one of the strongest conservation laws in the world.
Green Sea turtle
Green sea turtles can be found in tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide, and are named so due to the colour of their fat and cartilage rather than their colour.
Although there is an international ban on collecting the eggs of green sea turtles, their harvesting still occurs in many areas. Whilst the species overall is listed as endangered, the subpopulation in the Mediterranean is critically endangered.
Reef Manta Ray
Surpassed only by the giant oceanic manta ray, reef manta rays are the second-largest species of ray. They are threatened by hunting as well as being caught as bycatch.
Like many of the species on this list, they are fished for due to their use in traditional Chinese medicine, rather than for their meat.
Unlike other modern sea turtles, leatherback turtles do not have bony shells, which is how they got their name. They are the largest species of all living turtles and can dive to depths of 1,200m.
Although decades of protection efforts have increased their population in the southern region of the African continent, the poaching of their eggs remains a significant threat, especially in Thailand.
How Can You Help?
In order to protect our oceans, and the aquatic species at risk, we all need to play a part. Through our Breed, Rescue, Protect projects, we have developed a system of care based on the findings and experience of our marine biologists. We run local and global conservation projects with the expertise of our dedicated staff.
However, you don’t need to be a marine biologist to get involved. Our beach clean project in Blackpool runs every month, so you can do your part by helping us keep the oceans free of plastic and rubbish. Not only will you be helping to eliminate one of the threats to aquatic species, but you’ll also get free entry to SEA LIFE Blackpool, as our way of saying thank you for your efforts.