Endangered Marine Species

Vaquita marina - Photo by Tom Jefferson

Just like terrestrial animals, the creatures of the sea face myriad threats to their survival, both anthropogenic and natural, and many are in trouble. Our oceans appear vast and teeming with life, and until recently, were routinely viewed as containing infinite resources. In actuality, many marine species are decreasing at an alarming rate and are considered endangered. All manner of marine species are affected, including cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), seabirds, sea turtles, sharks and other fish, and marine invertebrates. The consequences of loss of species in the marine environment are significant, both ecologically and economically.

Threats to marine species are varied and—given the nature of the marine environment, with its great expanses and depths—often difficult to see, difficult to measure, and difficult to address. Principal anthropogenic threats to the survival of marine species include fisheries interactions (entanglement in nets and lines), hunting and capture by humans, ship strikes, pollution and habitat degradation, and climate change.

Vaquitas and Totoabas

Identified only 50 years ago, the critically endangered vaquita is endemic to Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California. Reaching a maximum length of about four feet, the porpoise is gray, with dark stripes running from its flippers to the middle of its lower lip. As recently as 20 years ago, there were approximately 600 vaquitas swimming in the Gulf. As of late 2015, 60 vaquitas were reported, and the numbers are believed to have fallen even further since then. Read more.