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Endangered Species Day Alert from the Pew Institute for Ocean Science

May 10, 2006

May 11 has been declared "Endangered Species Day" in the United States. The goal of Endangered Species Day is to encourage schools, museums, zoos, aquariums, conservation organizations, and other groups to promote educational awareness of threatened and endangered plants and animals. There are 1,869 species currently listed as threatened or endangered in the U.S. alone, and over 16,000 worldwide, according to the 2006 Red List published by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Every year more species become vulnerable to extinction due to direct human activity, loss of habitat, and climate change. The Pew Institute for Ocean Science ( and its Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation are working across the globe to protect threatened and endangered species in marine and aquatic environments.


Existing since the time of the dinosaurs, sturgeons and paddlefishes are among the most threatened and valuable fishes alive today. As producers of black caviar, they face intense fishing pressure. When combined with habitat degradation, their fate is becoming increasingly more uncertain.

The US Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a key piece of legislation protecting these fishes, recognizing four sturgeons as endangered and three as threatened. All species are now listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and 25 species are considered vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered by the IUCN.

Inclusion of beluga sturgeon on the ESA was achieved through the work of Caviar Emptor, a campaign of the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, SeaWeb, and NRDC seeking to protect and restore threatened Caspian Sea sturgeon. Caviar Emptor originally petitioned the US government to list beluga sturgeon under the ESA. Government action enforcing this listing has resulted in a ban on import of beluga sturgeon meat and caviar into the US.

In celebrating Endangered Species Day, remember that it is in bad taste to eat the eggs of an endangered species. On May 11 and every day, give beluga and the other Caspian Sea species a break.


Visit the Caviar Emptor Website


Global review of sturgeon and paddlefish fisheries:

PIOS is also working to save the last great population of beluga sturgeon on the planet in the Ural River of Kazakhstan. For more information on this project, check back on the Pew Institute for Ocean Science website or contact Dr. Phaedra Doukakis at



Despite being one of the most powerful species in the ocean, great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) are in peril. White sharks can take up to 12 to 14 years to mature, may reproduce only once every 2 or 3 years, and generally have only 2 to 10 young per litter. These life history characteristics make it difficult for populations to rebound after overexploitation. Significant white shark declines have now been observed in places as far apart as Australia, South Africa, the North West Atlantic, and the Mediterranean Sea.

White sharks are on the decline due to human activity such as recreational and commercial fisheries, beach swimmer protection programs and declines in prey availability. The international trade in white shark jaws, teeth, and fins also poses a significant threat to great whites.

The Pew Institute for Ocean Science helped influence the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to list great white sharks on Appendix II. A DNA test developed by Pew Institute for Ocean Science researchers to identify great white shark fins was instrumental in the decision by CITES to list the species in October 2004. This test provides an inexpensive, reliable and rapid method for monitoring catches and trade of great white shark products. It was recently used to demonstrate that despite full protection in U.S. waters, the fins of at least 22 great white sharks have been landed in the United States.

On May 11 and every day, remember that great white sharks are a vital part of marine ecosystems and that without them many ecosystems would collapse. Avoid buying curios of great white sharks or other shark species and learn to appreciate these majestic ocean predators.



Coral reefs are one of the most threatened ecosystems in our oceans. Overfishing, habitat degradation, pollution, as well as increasing ocean temperatures, are the main threats to coral ecosystems. Because reef-building corals grow slowly, and are part of a complicated web of species and ecological interactions, coral reef ecosystems are slow to rebound from disturbance and in some cases may not rebound at all. In fact, the U.S. recently recognized elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) corals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. These coral species have suffered a 97 percent decline in the Florida Keys and in the Caribbean since 1985.

On May 11 and every day remember that coral reefs are fragile, unique, irreplaceable ecosystems that deserve special care and attention. Avoid touching coral reefs while snorkeling or diving, and avoid purchasing souvenirs and jewelry made of coral.

The Pew Institute for Ocean Science is working on many fronts to save and restore coral reef ecosystems. The pew Institute for Ocean Science supports Dr. Andrew Baker and his vital work on coral bleaching:


Dr. Baker's Bio

The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation supports coral reef projects worldwide.

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