Migratory Species Declining, Action Needed

Migratory Species Declining, Action Needed

By Sharon Atieno

With nearly half of the population of migratory species including fish, birds and other animals declining, there is a need for concerted efforts to increase their conservation and protection.

This is according to the first-ever State of the World’s Migratory Species report by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), a UN biodiversity treaty, at the opening of a major UN wildlife conservation conference (CMS COP14).

According to the report, the conservation status of many CMS-listed species is deteriorating while one in five of the 1,189 CMS species are threatened with extinction.

Most worryingly, nearly all CMS-listed species of fish – including migratory sharks, rays and sturgeons – are facing a high risk of extinction, with their populations declining by 90 per cent since the 1970s.

The report also notes that the extinction risk is growing for migratory species globally, including those not listed under CMS. It found 399 migratory species – mainly birds and fish, including many albatrosses and perching birds, ground sharks and stingrays – are categorised as threatened or near-threatened but are not yet CMS-listed.

Moreover, half (51 per cent) of Key Biodiversity Areas identified as important for CMS-listed migratory animals do not have protected status, and almost six out of 10 of the monitored sites recognized as being important for CMS-listed species are experiencing unsustainable levels of human-caused pressure.

Overexploitation including taking of species from the wild through intentional removal, such as through hunting and fishing, as well as the incidental capture of non-target species, is the greatest threat for many migratory species. It is closely followed by habitat loss and fragmentation from activities such as agriculture and the expansion of transport and energy infrastructure.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said the report clearly shows us that unsustainable human activities are jeopardizing the future of migratory species – creatures who not only act as indicators of environmental change but play an integral role in maintaining the function and resilience of our planet’s complex ecosystems.

As migratory species move from one place to another, they play an essential role in maintaining the world’s ecosystems, and provide vital benefits, by pollinating plants, transporting key nutrients, preying on pests, and helping to store carbon.

“ The global community has an opportunity to translate this latest science of the pressures facing migratory species into concrete conservation action. Given the precarious situation of many of these animals, we cannot afford to delay, and must work together to make the recommendations a reality,” she said.

migratory species
Inger Andersen,  Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, at the CMSCOP 14 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

The State of the World’s Migratory Species report issues a clear wake-up call, and provides a set of priority recommendations for action. One of them is the need to strengthen and expand efforts to tackle illegal and unsustainable taking of migratory species, as well as incidental capture of non-target species.

It also recommends the need to increase actions to identify, protect, connect and effectively manage important sites for migratory species.

Additionally, it calls for urgently addressing those species in most danger of extinction, including nearly all CMS-listed fish species and scaling up efforts to tackle climate change, as well as light, noise, chemical and plastic pollution.

Further, it suggests the need to consider expanding CMS listings to include more at-risk migratory species in need of national and international attention.

Amy Fraenkel, CMS Executive Secretary, said: “Migratory species rely on a variety of specific habitats at different times in their lifecycles. They regularly travel, sometimes thousands of miles, to reach these places. They face enormous challenges and threats along the way, as well as at their destinations where they breed or feed. When species cross national borders, their survival depends on the efforts of all countries in which they are found. This landmark report will help underpin much-needed policy actions to ensure that migratory species continue to thrive around the world.”

The UN wildlife conservation conference (CMS COP14) taking place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan is one of the most significant global biodiversity gatherings since the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (Biodiversity Plan). It will also be the first COP of any global environmental treaty to take place in Central Asia, a region home to many migratory species including the Saiga Antelope, the Snow Leopard, and many species of migratory birds.

Governments, wildlife organisations and scientists have come together at the week-long meeting to consider actions to advance the implementation of the Convention. The State of the World’s Migratory Species report will provide the scientific grounding along with policy recommendations to set the context and provide valuable information to support the deliberations of the meeting.

This article was first published on Science Africa

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