It is now estimated
that the current extinction rate is up to 10,000 times higher than
it should be under natural conditions.
"Sustainable loss" is a
conservation measure to determine the survival chances of an entire
species. Animal mortality caused by humans, rather than natural
causes, means that the birth rate can't keep up with the overall
Anything on the Red List of Threatened Species is considered below
the "sustainable loss" threshold, and indicates that mankind
has annihilated enough of a single species to the point where it's
unable to self-sustain its numbers. Or, to put it another way, an
entire species ceases to exist in the near future - even if we stopped
killing them right now.
The only way to reverse such a devastating process is to actively
assist and encourage breeding of threatened species and to try and
recreate previously destroyed habitats as well as conserve those
that still exist.
On the verge of extinction
Even though you may, for example see
a hundred gentle manatees swimming in a bay on your holiday, it
doesn't mean they are safe in numbers. This is because their numbers
are below the "sustainable loss" threshold. Out of 100
manatees it only takes five of them per year to be killed by boat
propellers or fishing nets and that means their numbers over just
a few years will diminish to zero, since they can't breed quickly
enough to repopulate. And because their numbers dwindle each year,
the harder it becomes for the animals to even find each other to
Here's another example ... Right now there are only around 350 Northern
Right Wales left in the world. The loss of just one more pregnant
female could mean the end of the species. They die from collisions
with fast moving ships and entanglement with fishing nets. Right
Wales give birth to such few numbers of calves, and along with dramatic
reductions in their food supplies due to over-fishing by humans,
(see below) the future looks bleak for this docile creature.
Other causes of man-made non-sustainable
loss are even linked to the natural food chain. If the number of
fish are depleted in the sea through over-fishing then seabirds
who once fed on the fish also decline in numbers as there is not
enough food to keep their young alive. Sea pollution is also poisoning
birds feeding on fish that ingest plankton and crustaceans, which
are now known to be ingesting huge amounts of "invisible"
micro-plastics and other human-generated hazardous waste that's
clogging the oceans. This kind of chain reaction means that multiple
species are declining since they are unable to replenish their numbers
within and throughout the entire chain; ultimately falling below
the "sustainable loss" level.
In the North Sea and off Canada's east coast, cod has fallen far
below "sustainable loss", but are still being fished.
Canadian fisheries claim that seals are responsible for the cod's
decline and have used this as an excuse to kill millions of seals.
In fact, research shows that cod only makes up around 3 percent
of a seal's diet - the rest have been trawled to near extinction
by the fish industry. The reality is that seal fur and meat is a
16.5 million dollar per year money spinner for Canada. It is estimated
that there are only 6 million seals left from a previous population
of around 50 million, and seals are fast moving towards the "non-sustainable
There are countries who distort "sustainable
loss" figures in an attempt to justify the killings of endangered
For example, Japan has become the most notorious member of the International
Whaling Commission (IWC),
continuing to kill an unacceptable quota of whales annually. These
highly contentious culls raise millions of yen through whale meat
sales; but to try and appease the IWC, Japan contentiously calls
the killings "scientific research". Marine conservationists
however consistently prove that whales are highly endangered and
most certainly below the "sustainable loss" threshold).
Animals and marine life often suffer
the most due to the desires of decadent societies (and the emerging
economies heading towards such aspirations). Former third world
countries in parts of Africa the Far East are now destroying life
and habitats at such accelerated rates that entire species are loosing
the battle to survive on a yearly scale, rather than over scores
of years as was once assumed.
The Mekong River Giant Catfish (Pangasianodon Gigas) was classified
as critically endangered in 2003. This, the world's largest freshwater
fish, has declined due to rapid economical development and over-fishing
along the Mekong River, which runs through Northeast Thailand, southern
Lao PDR and Vietnam.
The latest giant catfish species to be added to the endangered list
is the Vietnamese Goonch or Chien (Bagarius yarielli). This has
also been heavily over-fished due to high prices fetched at market
due to demand by restaurants. And as Vietnam opens its doors to
an increasing number of hedonistic western tourists on foolish quests
for exotic delicacies, the catfish has headed towards extinction
much faster than previously thought.
By mid 2007 it was announced that
the Yangtze river dolphin in China (Baiji) is now extinct. After
a count in 1997 of only 13 sightings, then a detailed hi-tech search
by scientists in 2006, which found none remaining at all, this shows
to be the next large aquatic mammal to become extinct since the
demise of the Caribbean monk seal in the 1950s due to over-fishing.
Both such extinctions are caused by the direct effect of mankind's
destructive behaviour. The demise of the Yatzee river dolphin is
an appallingly significant moment in this new millenium that clearly
illustrates our continual inherent nature; to destroy rather than
cure - to fullfill our squandering needs and ostentatious excesses
rather than to help regenerate the planet that feeds us in the first
Each year 1,000 species are
Further inland, the future survival
of many species is just as bleak. It's estimated that around 50,000
species of flora and fauna become extinct every year. Many of these
are in areas of the world that are being deforested at an alarming,
and obviously unsustainable rate.
Apes of all types, as well as big cats such as the Siberian tiger
are nearing total extinction in the wild due to the destruction
of forest and grasslands. In countries like Brazil
and areas of Indonesia,
the conservation redline" reference of "sustainable loss"
is lost when faced with humanity's money-hungry exploitation of
the world's natural resources.
It must also be mentioned that
illegal activities, such as poaching (for bush meat) or logging
and the removal of exotic species from their natural habitats to
sell in the pet trade or the hunting of rare species for unproven
medicinal purposes cause a dramatic impact in terms of "unsustainable
loss". In fact more species end up on the endangered list through
illegal activities than those "legally" harvested by humans.
Even if it's not already too
late, it's only through man's direct help to replenish the numbers
of all mammals, birds and fish on the extinction list that these
threatened species might have any chance of existing in the future.
Disappearing polar bears and penguins due to melting ice floes are
topics that many of us are becoming more aware of. Manmade global
warming alone is now estimated to be reducing earth's species to
one quarter it's current number by 2050 ... But that's another story.
Useful External Links
Red List (http://www.redlist.org) web site is the
definitive resource of species on the brink of extinction. The site
is very comprehensive and may take time to get your bearings, but
it's worth the effort to get to grips with the reality of the disappearing
world around you ... and perhaps do something to help stop it.
More about the Right Whale at:
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