19 Jun 2018 Featured Article Oceans & seas

Protecting endangered marine life in the Northwest Pacific region

Beijing, June 2018 – An assessment by the United Nations marine and coastal conservation programme for the Northwest Pacific region shows that the survival of numerous marine species in People’s Republic of China, Japan, the Korean peninsula and the Russian Federation is at risk.

The evaluation by the UN Environment Action Plan for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Northwest Pacific Region (NOWPAP) reveals that there are more endangered species in NOWPAP member countries than the 143 listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.

“I hope these new findings will help increase awareness of the urgency to protect endangered species in the NOWPAP member states”, said Dr. Yoshihisa Shirayama of Japan Agency for Marine and Earth Science and Technology, who led the assessment

Threat to marine life

The threat to marine life in Northwest Pacific is a stark reality.  A total of 10 species are ranked as critically endangered. Another 44 species are ranked as endangered, among which are whales, birds, sea-turtle, jawless eel, rays, bony fish, corals and sea grasses. About 90 more species are deemed vulnerable, including 20 sharks and 43 corals. Back in 1974, the Northwest Pacific lost the last surviving Zalophus japonicus, commonly known as the Japanese Sea Lion, a species that was widely found in the region until the 1950s.

“The large number of endangered marine species highlights the urgency of preserving biodiversity in the region,” said Dr. Lev Neretin, NOWPAP Coordinator.

Climate change, habitat destruction and invasive species are among major threats to biodiversity in the NOWPAP region.

Over the next five years NOWPAP will develop a Regional Action Plan on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Conservation focused on IUCN red list species and expanding marine-protected areas.

The Action Plan will build on international good practices, such as the international treaty for conservation of migratory birds, to preserve biodiversity and protect endangered species.

Marine and coastal biodiversity conservation is a core part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda adopted by world leaders in 2015. NOWPAP biodiversity assessments support regional progress in achieving SDG 14.2 and 14.5 targets as well as SDGs 6, 13, 14 and 15.