The International Union for Conservation of Nature on Friday issued an update to its Red List of Threatened Species during the Cop15 environmental summit taking place in Montreal, Canada, with the Omani abalone and other marine life under the greatest threat.
“Today's IUCN Red List update reveals a perfect storm of unsustainable human activity decimating marine life around the globe,” said Bruno Oberle, the organisation's director general.
The updated list comes as delegates from around the world meet in Montreal for a UN biodiversity conference to finalise a new framework for “a peace pact with nature”, with the key goals of preserving Earth's forests, oceans and species.
The organisation said agricultural and pollution run-off causes harmful algal blooms, which have eliminated the Omani abalone, a commercial species found in the Arabian Peninsula, from across half of its former range.
Twenty of the world's 54 abalone species are now threatened with extinction.
“Abalones reflect humanity's disastrous guardianship of our oceans in microcosm: overfishing, pollution, disease, habitat loss, algal blooms, warming and acidification, to name but a few threats,” said Howard Peters of the University of York, who led the assessment.
“They really are the canary in the coal mine.”
The union is also sounding the alarm over the dugong — a large and docile marine mammal that lives from the eastern coast of Africa to the western Pacific Ocean.
The dugong is vulnerable throughout its range, and now populations in East Africa have entered the red list as critically endangered, IUCN said in a statement.
The major threats to the animal are unintentional capture in fishing gear in East Africa and poaching in New Caledonia, IUCN said.
It also suffers from boat collisions and loss of the seagrass it eats, said Evan Trotzuk, who led the East Africa assessment.
The US has announced it will help other nations to protect at least 30 per cent of the planet's land and seas by 2030, a key pledge of an anticipated new global nature pact.
A draft pledge has gained support from more than 110 nations, including the US.
“We are very interested in seeing the 30 by 30 framework adopted and in supporting other countries in achieving those goals,” Monica Medina, US special envoy for biodiversity and water resources, said in an interview before the Cop15 nature talks.
“We do need to aim for something that we think is achievable — and if we build on that success perhaps we can get even farther,” she added, highlighting a 50 per cent by 2050 protection target put forward by some scientists.
News agencies contributed to this report