Planet Earth is a complex series of interconnected ecosystems in which hundreds of thousands of species of flora and fauna are able to exist thanks to carefully balanced ecological conditions. Due to the interdependent nature of life on Earth, removing just one species from the system can have severe consequences for every other living organism.
Sadly, we’ve seen the extinction of a number of marine species in recent years, and human behaviour is largely to blame. Here at Ningaloo Whaleshark n Dive, we’re staunch supporters of sustainability. We always do our best to reduce pressure on the environment so that future generations can continue to swim with whale sharks and enjoy Australia’s natural beauty for years to come.
An important part of this revolves around educating our visitors on the many risks facing marine life both here in Ningaloo and around the world. Read on to learn more about some of the endangered marine species that are teetering on the edge of extinction.
Endangered Marine Species: Tropics
Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna Mokarran)
Typically found in the tropical areas of the world’s oceans, the hammerhead shark has been hunted extensively for its fin, which is served as luxury cuisine in some Asian countries. Harvesting the fin is a gruesome ordeal in which fisherman drag the sharks onto their boats, hack off their fins and dump the shark back into the water – all while the poor animal is still alive. Eventually, the shark bleeds to death.
Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricate)
For 100 million years the hawksbill turtle has trawled our seas, playing a critical role in maintaining the health of coral reef and seagrass beds, but sadly this beautiful creature faces an uncertain future. Hunted extensively for their meat and shells, experts predict that the number of hawksbill turtles had dropped by as much as 80 percent in the past century.
Endangered Marine Species: Atlantic Ocean
Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus Latirostris)
Majestic and sedately, the Florida manatee is known to inhabit the shallow, warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as fresh water rivers around Florida. A number of human-related activities have contributed to the endangerment of the Florida manatee, including habitat destruction, boat collisions and inadvertent poisoning through the use of pesticides and herbicides. Today, it is believed that just 3,200 Florida manatees are alive in the wild.
Kemp’s Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys Kempii)
With a remaining population of just 500, Kemp’s ridley turtle is the rarest species of sea turtle on the planet. Pollution, fishing nets and loss of habitation are believed to be the biggest threats. The good news is that a number of efforts are underway to help save the Kemp’s ridley turtle, such as incubation and hatching programs, as well as the banning of egg harvesting. Only time will tell how effective these initiatives will be.
Endangered Marine Species: Atlantic Ocean
Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias Jubatus)
Often referred to as the northern sea lion, the Steller Sea Lion resides in the northern Pacific and is particularly notable for being the largest eared sea lion in the world and. While it has not formally reached ‘threatened’ status, the Steller Sea Lion population has plummeted by more than 60 percent over the last 50 years. Steller Sea Lions are easy prey for hungry killer whales and are widely harvested by locals in Canada and Alaska for their meat and oil.
Fraser’s Dolphin (Lagenodelphis Hosei)
Known for travelling in large pods – sometimes numbering as many as a thousand – the Fraser’s dolphin typically resides in the Pacific Ocean and, less commonly, in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Up until the late 1970s, scientists believed the Fraser’s dolphin to be endangered but, unlike some of the other species on this list, recent conservation efforts have helped keep its population healthy. Nevertheless, the Fraser dolphin is still hunted illegally for meat, so vigilance is necessary to ensure it remains off the endangered list.
Hawaiian Monk Seal (Monachus Schauinslandi)
As the name suggests, the Hawaiian monk seal usually inhabits the waters surrounding the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Due to ciguatera poisoning, starvation, a disproportionate number of males to females and hunting from both humans and natural predators (namely tiger and Galapagos sharks), these seals have been pushed to the brink of extinction. It’s estimated that only 1,100 of these seals have managed to survive.
Endangered Marine Species: Other Regions
Blue Whale (Balaenoptera Musculus)
Measuring in at 29.9 metres long and weighing as much as 173 tonnes, the blue whale is the largest animal to ever have existed (including dinosaurs!). Commercial hunting has had a devastating effect on the blue whale and, despite the implementation of an international hunting ban in 1966, its numbers have dropped to somewhere in the region of 3,000-5,000. Conservationists around the world are working hard to protect the existence of the blue whale.
Vaquita (Phocoena sinus)
The adorable vaquita is not only the smallest cetacean in the world – it’s also the most endangered. Inhabiting the shallow coastal waters around Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, the vaquitas have suffered greatly from gillnetting, with some studies indicating that their population size declines by about 15 percent every single year. Just 600 Vaquita remain, but they may very well be extinct in the near future if the deadly trend continues.
Humpback Whale (Megaptera Novaeangliae)
It’s difficult to associate humpback whales with a single region considering their annual migration covers distances of up to 25,000 kilometres. Humpback whales were hunted extensively for flesh and meat, which saw the species’ numbers drop by 90 percent prior to the whaling moratorium of 1966. Today, just 2,500 humpback whales survive. Threats include boat collisions, pollution and getting caught up in shrimping nets.
As you can see, many marine animals are at risk. By taking an active interest in sustainability and environmental issues, everyone can do their part to help protect the planet’s most vulnerable inhabitants.
Want to get up, close and personal with one of the world’s most magnificent marine creatures? Book your Ningaloo whale shark swim today!