Threats to Migratory Species Highlighted in UN Report

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From African elephants searching for water to turtles crossing seas to nest and albatrosses on their ocean-spanning search for food, the world’s migratory species are facing significant threats. The first-ever State of the World’s Migratory Species assessment, focusing on the 1,189 species covered by the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), reveals that one in five species is threatened with extinction, and 44 percent are experiencing population decline.

Human activities are primarily responsible for these alarming trends. Habitat destruction, hunting, and pollution from plastics, chemicals, light, and noise have disrupted and fragmented the natural habitats of migratory species. Additionally, climate change poses a significant threat by altering seasonal conditions and interfering with migration routes and timings.

The report, released during a conference in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, attended by over 130 signatory countries, aims to serve as a wake-up call about the urgent need for action. Notably, the United States, China, Canada, and Russia were absent from the conference.

Migratory species often rely on specialized sites for feeding and mating, necessitating journeys that span international borders and even continents. Iconic species such as the monarch butterfly, the humpback whale, and the loggerhead turtle undertake extraordinary journeys across the planet.

The report emphasizes the evidence that unsustainable human activities, particularly agriculture and fishing, are jeopardizing the future of migratory species. Farming practices destroy crucial habitats, while bycatch from fishing vessels remains the most significant ongoing threat to whales, ensnaring other fish and animals in fishing gear. The intentional killing of migratory animals for wild meat, sport, or as perceived pests also poses a significant risk.

Over the past three decades, 70 CMS-listed species have become more endangered, including the steppe eagle, Egyptian vulture, and the wild camel. Only 14 species have shown improved conservation status, such as blue and humpback whales and the white-tailed sea eagle. Among the 158 mammals listed under the convention, 40 percent are globally threatened. Similarly, 97 percent of the 58 listed fish species face a high risk of extinction, including migratory sharks, rays, and sturgeons. Of the 960 CMS-listed bird species, 14 percent are assessed as threatened, amounting to approximately 134 species.

Furthermore, the report identifies an additional 399 migratory species, including albatrosses, ground sharks, and stingrays, that are categorized as threatened or near-threatened but are not yet CMS-listed.

The report emphasizes the economic value and services provided by many migratory species. From tourism centered around whales, dolphins, elephants, and cheetahs to the crucial role of pollination, these magnificent creatures contribute significantly to our ecosystems and economies.

The findings of the report align with the goal set in the 2022 biodiversity agreement, where countries committed to preserving 30 percent of the planet’s land and sea by 2030. The report aims to inform the discussions and decisions made at the Samarkand conference, highlighting the threats posed by fishing, farming, and pollution.

The State of the World’s Migratory Species report serves as a call to action, urging governments, organizations, and individuals to prioritize the conservation of these vulnerable species. By addressing the root causes of their decline, implementing sustainable practices, and protecting their habitats, we can ensure the survival and well-being of migratory species for generations to come.

Source: The Manila Times

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