Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Australia’s Coral Sea Red List

Cleaning station courtesy of Guy Shepherd
There was a time when the Coral Sea was primarily known for it's treacherous uncharted reefs. The once terrifying Coral Sea still has many mysteries and stories to discover but our knowledge has increased exponentially in the last 50 years. First we were mystified, then dazzled and now there is growing concern. 

At the southern reach of the Coral Sea the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) here recently held a social dive and snorkel at Flinders Reef, part of the Moreton Bay Marine Park. The event provided both novice and veteran divers alike with a remarkable surprise as they ventured into the rich coral gardens. The underwater vistas of tropical fish, coral and turtles rivaled more famous reefs to the north. 
Photo courtesy of Tony Isaacson

On the outbound journey the visitors were primed with much interesting and valuable information by Reef Check volunteers here, who have been surveying this reef and many other locations for some time.

It has been pointed out, however, that the Coral Sea is not immune to the vagaries that beset our oceans. The following are Quick Facts about the Coral Sea Red List here provided for your information by the Protect Our Coral Sea campaign

Australia’s Coral Sea Home to over 300 Threatened Animal Species:
Quick Facts

·         336 IUCN Red Listed species occur in the Co
ral Sea Conservation Zone (CSCZ). The majority of the species (51%) have decreasing population trends, indicating that they are either slow to respond to protection measures or that protection measures to date have been insufficient to stop their global decline.

·         24 IUCN Red Listed species occur in the CSCZ, including the critically endangered Beck’s Petrel. A fairy tern that resembles the New Caledonia race has been confirmed to occur in the CSCZ. With an estimated 100-200 breeding pairs of this species, the islets and cays of the CSCZ may be habitat for a significant portion of this species[1].

·         219 IUCN Red Listed species occur in the CSCZ. Globally, 229 coral species are listed as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable[2] and 96 (42%) of these occur in the CSCZ.

Dolphins and Whales:
·         There are 26 IUCN Red Listed species that occur in the CSCZ, including the endangered blue, sei and fin whales.  The blue whale is the largest animal on Earth.

Lepoard shark courtesy of AMCS
·         16 bony fish species on the IUCN Red List occur in the CSCZ. The majority of these fish are associated with coral reefs and belong to the grouper family (e.g. Orange-spotted grouper, brown-marbled grouper).  Barry the humphead wrasse, the charismatic spokesfish for the Protect Our Coral Sea campaign, is endangered globally, though populations appear healthy in Australia.  This species is currently taken from the wild for the marine aquarium industry.
·         46 species of shark and ray on the IUCN Red List occur in the CSCZ including the endangered squat-headed hammerhead and scalloped hammerhead sharks.

Marine Turtles:
·         At least five of the seven species of marine turtle occur in the CSCZ. Green turtles are listed as endangered, leatherback and hawksbill turtles are both critically endangered and olive ridley and loggerhead turtles are listed as vulnerable.

[1] Wildiaries Trip Report. 2009. Project Lihou Trip Report.[ http://oceans.wildiaries.com/trips/223]. Downloaded on 5th October, 2010.
[1] IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.3. [http://www.iucnredlist.org/about/summary-statistics]. Downloaded on 5th October, 2010.

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