10 Most Endangered Marine Species

What are the most endangered marine species?

Here are 10 of the worlds most endangered marine species. Today, our oceans face many threats including plastic pollution, over-fishing and global warming forcing many of these incredible creatures to the brink of extinction.

Vaquita Porpoise

Endanger Marine Vaquita Porpoise washed ashore in shallow water

The Vaquita Porpoise, or ‘little cow’ in Spanish, is found in shallow waters along the Gulf of California. Their distinctive (and rather adorable) markings include dark rings around their face, lips and eyes.

It is thought that there are less than 30 of these cetaceans left in the wild, making them the most endangered marine species on the planet.

Although never directly hunted, their population is in great decline due to accidental entanglement. The Vaquita are frequently caught within fixed fishing nets (gillnets) used by illegal operators in Mexico. Since they cannot surface, the poor animals are unable to breath and drown within minutes.

Work is being done to ban gill-net fishing in the area, however it is the illegal operators which are the main cause for the decline of this species. Sadly, the Vaquita was only discovered in 1958 and being the most endangered animal in the ocean, they are perilously close to extinction.

Here are some of the ways you can help save the Vaquita Porpoise from extinction.

Hawksbill Turtle

An Endangered Hawksbill Turtle swimming in open ocean

The Hawksbill Turtle is the most critically endangered of all Sea Turtle species. Found within reefs of the Indo-Pacific and central Atlantic, they are easily recognised by their distinctive shell and beak-like jaws. There are a number of reasons why the Hawksbill Turtle is one of the most endangered animals in the ocean.

The beautiful marble effect of their stunning carapace (tortoiseshell) have long been desired for fashion, jewellery and accessories. Unfortunately trade is still rife, despite international bans on the shell being sold.

Hawksbill Turtle meat and eggs are considered a delicacy in many cultures, and are heavily harvested for consumption. However this can be lethal since the turtles feed on a specific type of coral sponge which contains a toxin which causes kidney disease, liver dysfunction and even death in humans.

Largely, the Hawksbill Turtle remains one of the most endangered sea animals because of pollution. Illegal fishing nets, plastic ingestion, coastal development and climate change are all having a detrimental affect making them one of the most endangered ocean species.

The good news is, the conservation of sea turtles is now at an all time high so there is hope for this endangered marine species.

Read more information here and find out how you can help them.

Blue Whale

Most Endangered Marine life Blue whale swimming near surface

It is hard to believe that the largest animal known to man is one of the most endangered animals in the ocean.

During the industrial revolution whaling was big business, and Blue Whales were hunted for their meat and blubber which was used in the production of oil, soap, perfume and cosmetics.

Commercial hunting lead the Blue Whale alarmingly close to becoming an extinct marine animal, however in 1966 they were protected by the International Whaling Commission.

Although commercial whaling is no longer a threat to Blue Whales, their dwindling population now faces new threats like climate change and pollution, making the Blue Whale one of the oceans most endangered marine species.

Sea Otter

Two Sea Otters swimming on their back

The Sea Otter is one of the smallest endangered ocean species. If you’re hoping to spot one of these cuties in the wild, they are most commonly found in California. Sea Otters play a vital role in our ecosystem by feeding on sea urchins which help keep kelp forests thriving.

Unfortunately, the reason Sea Otters are endangered is a very sad one. They have the densest fur in the animal kingdom, which makes a highly desirable pelt for the fur trade.

There is now an international ban on commercial hunting, however Sea Otters remain one of the most endangered sea animals because of pollution, oil spills and fishing net entanglement.

Whale Shark

Single large male shark top view in Maldives

The Whale Shark is the largest fish, and indeed the largest shark in the sea. They live in warm tropical waters, and have a huge appetite for plankton!

Sadly, these gentle giants are an endangered ocean species due to legal and illegal fishing operations. They are hunted for oil, meat, and even their fins. Shark fin is a highly sought-after delicacy in Asia.

The larger the fin, the more valuable they are, hence why Whale Sharks are targeted. This cruel act is referred to as ‘finning’ which is when the fin of a live shark is sliced off and the animal is essentially left to die.

Although their exact population is unknown, a lack of sightings has placed the status of the Whale Shark as an endangered animal in a vulnerable situation.

Galapagos Penguin

Group of Galápagos Penguins on standing on rock

This tropical Penguin is endemic to the Galápagos Islands, and is the only penguin species which lives so far north. They have adapted to survive in warmer climes, and spend the majority of their time in the water.

The biggest threat facing this endangered ocean species is climate change. The Galapagos Penguin relies heavily on the Humboldt Current, which in recent years has begun to fluctuate in temperature particularly during El Niño. In 1982-1983 77% of the Galapagos Penguin population died, and only 15 years later they were threatened again with yet another El Niño.

These extreme temperature changes are happening more and more frequently, making the Galapagos Penguin one of the most endangered marine animals.

Hector's Dolphin

Rare and endangered Hector’s dolphin above and below water shot

The Hector’s dolphin is the rarest marine dolphin in the world. Their cartoon-like appearance is often compared to Mickey Mouse with their round dorsal fin. This critically endangered dolphin is found in the shallow waters off of North Island in New Zealand.

The main threat to the Hectors Dolphin is bycatch. Since they live so close to the shore, they are often accidentally entangled in recreational and commercial fishing nets, gillnets in particular.

These Dolphins are also endangered sea animals because of pollution from humans since they live so close to the shore. Their natural habitat is affected by coastal development, boat traffic and seabed mining.

The good news is, in 2012 New Zealand agreed to ban a section of gillnet fishing within the Dolphins habitat, but this must be expanded to ensure the survival of this endangered marine species.

Humphead Wrasse

Large Marine Humphead Wrasse close up

The eye-catching Humphead Wrasse is a characterful reef fish with large lips and a distinctive forehead, often admired by snorkelers and divers. They frequent reef drop-offs in the Indo-Pacific, Central Pacific, East Africa and Red Sea.

The Humphead Wrasse are known to chomp their way through crustaceans and even the Crown of Thorns Starfish, which destroy coral reefs.

Over the last 30 years, the population of these gigantic reef fish has declined as much as 90% due to them being in-demand in the gourmet food industry, especially in Asia. Global warming is also having an affect since the Wrasse live on coral reefs which are suffering from bleaching and decline due to rising ocean temperatures.

Hawaiian Monk Seal

Cute Hawaiian Monk Seal sleeping on Sandy beach

The adorable Hawaiian Monk is one of the very few species of seal to live in the tropics. When they’re not swimming and diving, they enjoy sunbathing on the land.

There are several threats affecting this endangered marine species including sharks and male seals, which attack groups of females. However their main threat is humans, as tourism and development on Hawaii has greatly affected their natural habitat.

The seals also fall victim to accidental entanglement and plastic pollution. The Caribbean Monk Seal is already extinct from bycatch and hunting, and with only 1,200 Hawaiian Monk Seals left in the wild, their future remains unsure.

North Atlantic Right Whale

An endangered breaching North Atlantic right whale

There are only around 400 North Atlantic Right Whales left in our oceans. Due to a great deal of oily blubber they carry, these whales were targeted heavily by hunters and almost reached extinction in the early 20th Century until a ban was put in place in 1937. Sadly, the species never truly recovered and has been in decline ever since.

North Atlantic Right Whale deaths are increasing each year. In 2017 alone, 17 whales died. The whales migrate through the Atlantic coastal waters from Canada all the way down to Florida, a route which often overlaps with shipping lanes, making them a prime target for boat strikes. Today, this is primarily why the North Atlantic Right Whale is an endangered ocean species facing extinction.

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