Twelve percent of marine species in tropical eastern Pacific threatened Twelve percent of marine species in tropical eastern Pacific threatened

February 24, 2012 § 1 Comment


Twelve percent of marine species surveyed in the Gulf of California, the coasts of Panama and Costa Rica and the five offshore oceanic islands and archipelagos in the tropical eastern Pacific are threatened with extinction, according to a study by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and its partners. Main threats to the region’s marine flora and fauna include over-fishing, habitat loss and increasing impacts from the El Nino Southern Oscillation.

Released this week, the study is the first IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ assessment available for all known species of marine shore-fish, marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, corals, mangroves and seagrasses in a major marine biogeographic region. The analysis identifies specific geographic zones where conservation efforts are needed most, including around the mouth of the Gulf of California and the coastlines of Panama and Costa Rica, while also identifying the nature and location of the greatest dangers to marine life.

“Understanding species vulnerability to major threats is paramount for determining how species and marine environments are likely to respond to one or more simultaneous threats,” says Beth Polidoro, Research Associate, IUCN Marine Biodiversity Unit, and lead author of the study. “Identification of threatened species and patterns of threat in the tropical eastern Pacific region can help guide local and regional marine conservation priorities for biodiversity conservation, as well as serve to inform policy.”

In recent years, at least 20 marine species have gone extinct around the world, and more than 133 local populations of marine species have suffered a similar fate. These include the disappearance of the endemic Galapagos Damselfish (Azurina eupalama) during the events of El Niño from 1982-1983. Drastic declines have also been documented across several marine groups, including many populations of commercial fish, coral reef fish, reef-building corals, mangroves, and seagrasses. Two commercial marine fish, the Totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) and the Giant Sea Bass (Stereolepis gigas) are listed as Critically Endangered, and were once common in the waters of southern California and the Gulf of California, Mexico. Both species are extremely desirable for human consumption but have limited ability to cope with severe over-fishing because they have long life spans and the large groups they form when spawning are often targeted by fishers—reducing the chances of rebuilding sustainable populations.

“Saving threatened species is the single most important thing we can do to safeguard ocean health, which benefits millions of people that depend on thriving and productive oceans,” says Scott Henderson, Regional Director of Marine Conservation at Conservation International and co-author of the study. “This new study is a monumental scientific effort which gives governments and support organizations the information needed to focus conservation dollars on the species, places and problems that need help the most.”

The findings reinforce that conservation action is needed for both marine species and the geographic areas where they are most threatened. For example, the creation of a marine protected area around Clipperton Island in the eastern Pacific Ocean should be a high priority, as it has one of the highest proportions of threatened species in the tropical eastern Pacific, and is the only one of the five oceanic islands and archipelagos in the region that lacks complete governmental protection. Legislation to limit mangrove removal from important fishery nursing grounds along the coasts of Costa Rica and Panama is also vital, according to the study. Additionally, better data collection, reporting and monitoring for both targeted and by-catch fisheries species should be an urgent priority for the improvement of marine conservation efforts throughout the region.

“There are tangible steps that we can take to curtail the risk of extinction of species in the tropical eastern Pacific,” says Tom Brooks, NatureServe’s Chief Scientist. “For example, for the few fishery species that are threatened, we must work towards better management on both local and regional scales. We can make a difference, but first we must collect and use the valuable data available.”


Among the Marine Species mentioned are Waved Albatross endemic to the island of Espanola and several species of Sea Turtles found in the Galapagos Islands


New Fish ID App for Iphone for the Galapagos Islands and Eastern Pacific

February 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

A great new iphone app that to download before heading to the Galapagos…

By Bernd F. Laeschke

A new application for the iPhone allows users to identify shore fishes of the tropical Eastern Pacific. The app is a powerful tool for scientists, divers and tour guides. It includes unique fish-finding and list-making tools, in addition to range maps. The tropical Eastern Pacific, spanning the area from Mexico’s Baja California to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, is one of three great global centers of marine biodiversity. Until the 1990s there was no guide to the fish in this region. The iPhone app evolved from “Fishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific,” a guide published in 1994 by Gerald R. Allen, a consultant for Conservation International, and D. Ross Robertson, a Smithsonian staff scientist. The book featured detailed descriptions of nearly 700 species and led to the first Spanish-language guide in 1998.

“Now, not only can you carry the means to identify almost 1,300 species in your pocket, this application surpasses many of the currently available field guides in its ability to create and share lists that correspond to specific regions or field trips,” said Robertson. “We also made it portable: The information is all in your phone so you don’t need to be connected to a server to use it…important when you are out at sea.”

iPhone users can browse alphabetic lists by species and family, use identification keys and perform a combination search on name, location, shape, pattern and color characteristics to identify unknown fishes. The notebook module serves two functions: users can keep track of the species that they have recently seen and keep annotated lists of fish from different sites that are then organized in folders; they can also export lists by email.

Each species page includes common and scientific names, images of the species, a detailed description, key features used to distinguish it from other species and a map of its range in the tropical Eastern Pacific. The information is also stored in the app’s database and can be used for specific searches. A glossary of scientific terms makes the guide accessible to students and lay-people, and information about the extinction risk status, based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, is available to resource managers and conservationists.

The iPhone application, created by Robertson with funds from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, is available as a free download in Apple’s App Store.

Manta Ray Migration Study

August 23, 2011 § 2 Comments

From El Comerical

Real-time tracking of multiple rays is possible thanks to joint efforts of the Galapagos National Park, National Park Foundation Machalilla Equilibrio Azul.

Last week, two technicians from the Galapagos National Park,  three officials Machalilla National Park, and two divers from Equilibrio Azul, established the monitoring and marking of rays in the island of La Plata on the coast of Manabi, in order to obtain information on the movements of rays.

During the trip, which lasted four days, placed tranmitters on six manta rays.  These tramsmitters emit signals to a receiver installed in different parts of the coast.

Tags were also placed on three rays which emit signals in real time to the satellite monitoring center installed in the offices of the Galapagos National Park Service on the island of Santa Cruz

The first satellite images show that the rays are moving around the island off the coast of Manta and Bahia de Caraquez. 

“The goal of this project is to measure the migration patterns of this species in the coastal area to see if there are other sites that are preferred for them on the Ecuadorian coast and can be protected, in addition to verifying whether there is connectivity with other areas like the Galapagos or the South Pacific region, “said the ranger Eduardo Espinoza, head of the Galapagos National Park Marine Research. 

Manta rays are a protected species by the Ecuadorian government since 2010, including in the list of endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but most are considered a symbol of tourism in some dive sites Ecuadorian coast.

January through March  is considered manta ray season where  Galapagos divers can dive with rays off the coast of Isabela.

Galapagos Whale Shark Project

July 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

The first whale shark of the year was spotted at Darwin Islet on May 20, 2011.  This was excellent news for Jonathan Greene and the other members of the Galapagos Whale Shark Project.  The project is designed to raise aweness of the importance of Whale Sharks to the intregity of the world’s oceans.  They hope to create protection areas both regionally and globally by using tagging technology and photo identification to determine the charactersitics of the Galapagos whale shark population.  The hope to identify the long-term migratory movements.

Each year between May and November a large population of female whale sharks congrate near Wolf and Darwin.  Why the females congrate there and there are no males is unknown as it is unknown where these whale sharks are the rest of the year. 

The Galapagos Whale Shark Project combines the efforts of the Galapagos National Park Service, the University of Davis California, Conservation International and the Charles Darwin Research Station.  The group set out this week for their first tagging trip. 

Visit their website to learn more about the Galapagos Whale Shark Project and how you can get involved.

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