IUCN - The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland (23.06.2005) - Although coral reef fishes enjoy a great deal of interest around the world, little is known about the conservation status of most of them. Concerns are increasingly being raised about the impacts on these species of coral bleaching, as compounded by fishing and other pressures on coral reefs. Currently, only a small number of coral reef fish species are listed on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but the number that are threatened is believed to be much higher.
In recognition of these concerns, a technical workshop was held in late April in Norwich, UK, to evaluate the susceptibility to extinction of the world’s coral reef fishes, using an Extinction Susceptibility Matrix developed by IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC). One hundred and sixty reef fish families, or around 4,200 species, were screened. The preliminary results of the workshop are quite startling, indicating that over 25% of reef fishes, or more than 1,000 species, are highly susceptible to extinction.
Developed as a tool to screen large numbers of marine species for their vulnerability to extinction, the SSC Susceptibility Matrix distills the intrinsic (e.g., life-history, ecology) and extrinsic (e.g., habitat loss, exploitation) factors that dictate “susceptibility” to extinction. This gives a weighting to these various factors to obtain an overall assessment of relative susceptibility. As well as providing a basis for prioritizing species for formal threatened status assessment, the matrix could also be widely used as a simple tool to distinguish those species, amongst thousands, that may be particularly at risk, or in need of precautionary management.
This workshop was an important first step in the implementation of a major project, the Global Assessment of Reef Fishes (GARF), aimed at evaluating the status of the world’s coral reef fishes using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. The GARF will be a multi-year effort involving the collaboration of institutions and individual scientists around the world and will become an important element of marine conservation.
(The workshop was convened by the SSC Coral Reef Fishes Specialist Group (CRFSG), in conjunction with the Perry Institute for Marine Science, and hosted by Dr. Isabelle Côté of the University of East Anglia (UK) and chaired by CRFSG Chair, Dr. Terry Donaldson of the University of Guam Marine Laboratory).
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