Tribune News Network
THE anticipated 2nd and final IUCN Regional Red List Assessment workshop run by the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA), Qatar University and Qatar Museums Authority, examining the relative risk of extinction of Arabian Gulf fishes has concluded making some alarming observations.
According to the findings of the workshop, three percent of fishes in the Arabian Gulf are at elevated risk of regional extinction due to overexploitation by commercial fisheries and widespread coral reef degradation and modification whereas 20 percent of species do not have enough data to enable assessment.
The conclusions highlight the critical need for research that needs to be undertaken on these species. It is to be noted the important conservation effort has been made possible through the support of the Qatar National Research Fund.
Experts from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Iran met with international fish experts and representatives of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to assess the likelihood of extinction of marine fishes in the Arabian Gulf under the IUCN Regional Red List categories and criteria.
A total of 452 species of fish were assessed, including major commercial fishes such as the Zubeidi (Pampus argenteus), Anfuz (Pomacanthus maculosus) and Safi (Siganus caniculatus).
The principal investigator for this assessment initiative, Dr Abdulrahman al Muftah (Assistant Prof Marine Sciences, Qatar University) said:"The highlight of these workshops was having participants from all of the Arabian Gulf countries working together to determine which of our marine fishes were most at risk of extinction in the near future."
Three percent of marine fish species, including Hamour (Epinephelus coioides), Zubeidi (P argenteus) and Knaad (Scomberomorus commerson), were determined as having a heightened risk of extinction and have been listed as either ˜Vulnerable' or ˜Endangered'. While the vast majority of species were determined to have a relatively low risk of extinction and are listed as ˜Least Concern' (74 percent), meaning that these fishes are at a relatively low risk of becoming extinct in the near future, and three percent have been listed as ˜Near Threatened', alarmingly 20 percent have been listed as ˜Data Deficient', including commercial species such as Hamman (Carangoides coeruleopinnatus) and Safi (S javus).
This means that not enough is known about these species to determine their risk of extinction. It is vital that more research be undertaken to enable the assessment of the conservation status of ˜Data Deficient' species be determined and if required appropriate management action be taken to ensure their long-term survival.
All assessments were completed at the regional level of the Arabian Gulf and need to undergo a period of review before they are formally accepted.
A combination of unique environmental characteristics in the Arabian Gulf (extreme temperature regimes, oceanographic conditions), coupled with widespread threats (coastal development, pollution, habitat degradation, exploitation), is contributing to higher vulnerability to extinction of these fishes.
In addition, these workshops highlighted the importance of intrinsic life history characteristics such as habitat preferences, longevity, and complex reproductive methods as also contributing to the increased risk of extinction of fishes in the Arabian Gulf.
Assessing the conservation status of biodiversity found in this unique and globally important marine region and identifying the threats allows for the prioritisation of the development and implementation of management plans for the conservation of species that are of concern.
Improved knowledge of the conservation status of the fishes in the Arabian Gulf will not only allow us to combat the loss of biodiversity and plan for future climate change impacts in the region but will enable region-specific conservation actions to be enacted," said Dr Fareed Krupp (Project Manager, Qatar Museum Authority).
"A wealth of knowledge about fish from the Arabian Gulf was gained during these regional workshops, but there is still much to learn. Our hope is that when it is time to reassess these species in the future, we will be able to do so for all of the marine fishes, including the 89 species listed as Data Deficient," added Dr Kent Carpenter, lead principal investigator and initiator of the project from Old Dominion University and the manager of the Marine Biodiversity Unit of the IUCN Global Species Programme.