DOHA: Three percent of fish in the Arabian Gulf are at high risk of extinction due to over-exploitation by commercial fisheries and widespread coral reef degradation, a study has found.
The second and final International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Regional Red List Assessment workshop run by the Global Marine Species Assessment, Qatar University (QU) and Qatar Museums Authority examined the relative risk of extinction of Arabian Gulf fish and said there was not enough data on 20 percent of species for assessment, highlighting the need for research on the species.
This important conservation effort is made possible through the support of Qatar National Research Fund.
Experts from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE, Iraq and Iran met their international counterparts and representatives of IUCN and assessed 452 species, including major commercial fish such as zubeidi, anfuz and safi.
“The highlight of these workshops was having participants from all Arabian Gulf countries working together to determine which of our marine fish were most at risk of extinction in the near future,” said Dr Abdulrahman Al Muftah, Assistant Professor, Marine Sciences, QU, and principal investigator.
Three percent of marine fish species, including hamour, zubeidi and knaad, were determined as having a heightened risk of extinction and have been listed as vulnerable or endangered.
The vast majority of species were determined to have a relatively low risk of extinction and listed as least concern (74 percent), meaning that they are at a relatively low risk of becoming extinct in the near future, and 3 percent listed as near threatened.
Alarmingly, 20 percent have been listed as data deficient, including commercial species such as hamman and safi. This means that not much is known about them to determine their risk of extinction.
It is vital that more research is undertaken to enable assessment of the conservation status of data-deficient species and if required management action be taken to ensure their long-term survival. All assessments were completed at the regional level and need to undergo 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 fish.
The workshops also highlighted the importance of intrinsic life history characteristics such as habitat preferences, longevity, and complex trophic and reproductive methods as also contributing to the increased risk of extinction of fish.
“Assessing the conservation status of biodiversity found in this unique and globally important marine region and identifying threats allows for 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 fish will not only allow us to combat the loss of biodiversity and plan for future climate change impacts in the region but will also enable region-specific conservation actions,” said Dr Fareed Krupp, QMA Project Manager.
“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 fish, including the 89 species listed as data deficient,” said Dr Kent Carpenter, lead principal investigator and initiator of the project from Old Dominion University and manager of Marine Biodiversity Unit of the IUCN Global Species Programme.