The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) sounded the alarm on Saturday about the need to preserve the Komodo dragons. Meeting at a congress in Marseille (south-eastern France), the IUCN has made public a much-awaited update of its famous “Red List”, which nevertheless notes an improvement in the situation of several tuna species thanks to the imposition of fishing quotas.
In total, the latest edition of this real barometer of the state of life on our planet lists 138,374 species, of which 38,543 are classified in the various “threatened” categories. Or some 28%.
“These Red List assessments demonstrate how closely our lives and livelihoods are linked to biodiversity,” IUCN Director General Bruno Oberle said in a statement.
The IUCN Congress is an opportunity for political decision-makers and civil society to multiply the messages on this link between the ongoing collapse of biodiversity and the living conditions of humans on the planet, also threatened by climate change.
The fate of the Komodo dragons, the largest lizards in the world, a few thousand of whom live on a group of Indonesian islands part of which is covered by a national park, illustrates the link between these two processes, increasingly emphasized by IUCN.
The living conditions of these giants, which measure up to three meters in length and weigh 90 kilos, are thus threatened by both global warming and human activity. “Rising temperatures and therefore sea level should reduce their habitat by at least 30% over the next 45 years,” warns IUCN.
Besides the Komodo dragons, sharks and rays
And if the Komodo dragons present in the national park are “well protected”, those outside “are threatened with a significant loss of their habitat due to human activities”.
Other human victims are sharks and rays (which are part of the same family), for which an overall reassessment has shown that 37% of the 1,200 species studied are now threatened. All the species thus classified face overfishing, 31% are also confronted with degradation or loss of habitat and 10% with the consequences of climate change, according to the IUCN.
“Far too many sharks and rays are killed and the measures against overfishing are woefully inadequate”, with an exploitation “often legal even if it is not sustainable”, explains to AFP Nick Dulvy, of the Canadian university Simon Fraser, author of a study on which this reassessment is based. At the last assessment in 2014, 24% of the species studied were endangered.
Conversely, IUCN is pleased to see “four species of commercially fished tuna recovering thanks to the implementation of regional quotas,” developed by specific organizations. Out of the seven most fished species, these four have thus seen their ranking down in the list.
Dramatic recovery in bluefin tuna
Unlike the Komodo dragons, the Atlantic bluefin tuna even made a dramatic turnaround, going straight from “endangered” to “least concern”, three categories below.
But the organization warns “that despite an overall improvement, many regional tuna stocks remain depleted.”
“These assessments are proof that sustainable fishing approaches work, with huge long-term benefits for economic activity and biodiversity,” said Bruce Collette, chair of the IUCN Tuna Specialist Group.
The organization also presented its new “Green Status of Species”, intended to measure the regeneration of species and determine the impact of conservation programs. It currently has 181 assessed species, still far from the Red List to which it will subsequently be included.
But despite the successes, the new Red List “shows that we are very close to a sixth mass extinction,” insists Craig Hilton-Taylor, responsible for its development. “If the increase continues at this rate, we will soon be facing a major crisis.”