The ecosystem is made up of a vast number of plants and animals that create the complex web of life as we know it. The oceans produce over half of the planet’s oxygen and absorb much more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere. Biodiversity is what gives us a variety of life on earth. There are checks and balances in the biological system that allow species to interact and directly affect all living things. That being said, there are a number of marine animals and ocean species that are endangered and face the possibility of extinction in the future.
Blue whales are the largest living mammals on earth. They measure more than 100 feet in length and can weigh over 200 tons. The whales are the very top of the food chain and because of that play a huge role in maintaining healthy marine environments. Commercial hunting done in excess has decreased the numbers of these creatures significantly. Today the estimated global population of Blue whales is between 10,000-25,000.
This type of shark is known to be an aggressive hunter. Hammerheads feed on squid, octopus, and smaller fish. There are a few reports of unprovoked attacks on humans, however these attacks are rare. The illegal act of catching these sharks for their fins is particularly brutal. Fisherman will reel a Hammerhead in and cut the shark’s fin off while it’s still breathing. Once they’ve gotten the fin they throw the shark back in the water, where it inevitably will bleed to death. There is a high demand and price for Hammerhead fins and although there have been bans imposed on shark finning it has not slowed the illegal harvest system. The existing market’s disregard for this marine species’ survival is endangering every sharks future.
Hawaiian Monk Seal
The Hawaiian Monk Seal is native to Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It is one of the only types of seals to live in warm beaches, as opposed to cold. There were three species of these seals, however the Carribean monk seals have already become extinct. The only other remaining monk seal is the Mediterranean. Due to commercial hunting for oil, skin, and meat the Hawaiian Monk Seal is now endangered. The species is also being killed by pollution, becoming entangled in fishing nets, and attacks by predators such as the tiger shark. Today there are around 1,400 left on the islands.
Over the last century the population of Hawksbill Turtles has declined an estimated 80%. This is in part due to a period of time where the turtles were killed and trafficked for their meat and shells. The Hawksbill Turtles have colorful patterns on their shells, making the beautiful, natural designs highly desired on the black market. While many countries have banned the harvesting of shells and eggs it has not stopped the illegal trade. Furthermore, the degradation of coral reef species which the Turtles eat has also played a part in the steady decline of their population. Many coral reefs and seagrass beds are healthy because of the existence of turtles such as these.
This species are the smallest dolphins in the world and can be found off the coast of New Zealand. Hector’s Dolphins are stocky and have white colored bellies with black markings on their face. Unfortunately, the world’s rarest dolphins has seen their populations declining significantly over the years. One subspecies of these animals is the Maui dolphin and there are only an estimated 55 left on the planet.
Two things people can do to effect change is to be aware of the problem and adjust behavior accordingly. What we do as humans has a direct effect on the endangered species of the oceans.