Extinction happens when a plant or animal species ‘ last individual dies out. This can occur naturally, likely due to climate change or other factors, or due to human activity such as overhunting or habitat destruction. Marine animals are aquatic mammals that rely for their life on the ocean and other marine ecosystems.
Researchers are now using a comprehensive study of marine animals that have died out over the past 23 million years to determine which animals and ocean habitats are actually at the greatest risk of extinction today. Assistant Professor Seth Finnegan of integrative biology at the University of California, said “our goal was to diagnose which species are vulnerable in the modern world, using the past as a guide.”
sSome of the increasing extinction dolphins such as the Irrawaddy Dolphin (left) listed ‘endangered’ by the IUCN (International Union for Conversation of Nature) Red List, Australian Snubfin Dolphin (middle) listed ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN Red List and the Australian Humpback Dolphin (right) globally becoming ‘vulnerable’ according to the IUCN Red List.
The term “endangered” is used to describe species listed as Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered. According to the IUCN (International Union for Conversation of Nature) Red List classified dolphin species who are endangered. Scientists are afraid that the marine mammal is now extinct due to fishing and commercial development, making it the first cetacean to disappear as a result of human activity.
Worldwide dolphins and several species face a number of detrimental impacts that are threating on their existence. The risks to dolphins are partly and largely the result of human activity and its related impacts. Some human activities, whether intentionally or accidentally, can have detrimental environmental impacts, leading to a reduction in the dolphin population and increasing the risk of extinction.
Human activity is the major threat to dolphins, including plastic pollution, coastal industrial development, shark nets, and commercial fishing such as gillnets and purse-seine nets. These nets are invisible to dolphins, which can become entangled, trapped and drowned. But, in an attempt to catch food, several dolphins pursue fishing trawlers and end up in the trawl nets. Dolphins can be also entangled and killed in Australia (Queensland and New South Wales) in shark prevention programs. Dolphins are classified under the 1999 Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which forbids dolphin species from being killed, captured, damaged and dealt with in Australian waters. In addition to this act, it is important to release immediately alive dolphins that are accidentally captured due to fishing activity and to document and record these interactions. However, in fishery logbooks, dead dolphins have to be registered.
8 million metric tons of plastic trash enters the sea from land every year. The equivalent of 5 plastic bags filled with trash for every foot of coastline in the world.
The ocean-wide plastic trash streams through circulation, spread almost everywhere but concentrated in huge swathes in the middle of global currents breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces eaten by animals throughout the aquatic ecosystem and falling to the bottom of the sea. Nevertheless, aquatic pollution exists in various forms; industrial agricultural and urban waste that can flow into the sea causing algae outbreaks that deprive marine organisms of the oxygen they need to survive. Such places are dead zones with this persistent pollution that already occur in more than 400 locations around the world. However nutrient pollution can be managed like improving the organic matter.
Most marine animals that include dolphins experience the detrimental effects of climate change. The rising water temperatures influence the ocean currents which alter migratory routes, feeding grounds, and distribution of prey. Scientists and conservationist are concerned that dolphins will not be able to adapt to these conditions fast enough to sustain their population.
Melting ice sheets and thermal expansion influence the rising sea level, which is also detrimental to some species of dolphins. The species of dolphins living in brackish waters (areas where rivers meet oceans) lose their habitat. Reasons for this are increases in sea temperatures, freshening of seawater, acidification, rising sea levels, depletion of frozen polar ecosystems and a reduction in food sources, which are just some of the many dangers that climate change presents to dolphins. The planet’s accelerated warming also leads to dolphin habitat loss and increased competition for a dwindling number of prey species. There is a need for radical action, because dolphin populations may not be able to adapt and survive fast enough.
An example of this is in early 2011, a heatwave swept across Shark Bay, in Western Australia which caused the water temperatures to rise more than four degrees above the annual average. This caused a substantial loss of seagrass, which drives the Shark Bay ecosystem. Researches from University of Zurich collaborating with researchers from the University of Bristol investigated this and found it has affected the survival and reproduction of dolphins. Analysis of this data revealed that the dolphin’s survival rate has fallen by 12 per cent following the heat wave.
Our ocean areas are at high risk of extinction (red) and are covered with areas that are mostly impacted by human activity (black outline) with areas experiencing a high rate of climate change (crosshatch).
Researchers from institutions in Australia, the United States of America and the United Kingdom found evidence that suggests increased dolphin familiarity with humans has led to an increase in injury and death to the marine animals.
Scientists from the United States Nations Environment Program World Conversation Monitoring Center and the Computational Science Laboratory of Microsoft Research, Dalhousie University, University of Massachusetts, Mount Allison University, University of Oslo, College of William and Mary, University of Washington, and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute are all co-authors that conducted a report on Paleontological Baselines for Evaluating Extinction Risk in the Modern Oceans.
Their focus is on researching chemicals, plastic waste and bacterial pollution from sewage waste that pose harm to the beloved dolphin species.
The negative outlook in this dolphin extinction is that dolphins play an important role in maintaining a balance with their environment. They eat other animals, often fish and squid, and are a food source for some sharks and other creatures. Without dolphins the species they feed on would increase in number, and their predators would not have much to eat. This can disturb the natural food chain balance and could have a negative impact on other wildlife. Dolphins are close to the top of the food chain and play an important role in the marine environment’s overall balance. These such amazing species can tell us a lot about the ocean’s health, such as the presence of pollution or the decline of fish and are very popular with tourists.
The positive side of this, is people are concerned therefore are also working actively to protect these animal species. A variety of research projects are currently being funded by the Australian Government to learn more about dolphin populations and patterns, mainly migratory routes, and significant habitat areas for the species.
For the Amazon dolphins, drone footage is being used to protect and build on the missing data on dolphin populations and is crucial in ensuring their protection and long-term survival.
Dolphin Research Australia Inc. is a charitable organisation whose mission is to increase the understanding and knowledge of the ecology of dolphins and their survival and to improve their conservation and protection of their habitats. “Oceans and forests, the two lungs of the world, both under threat – and, both highly endangered.” – Dr Jane Goodall Conservationist.
Overall, many marine animal species are becoming extinct and it is important that we change the way we are disposing of our waste and how humans interact with the marine animals. If they become extinct it can negatively affect marine life in areas.
Dolphins are a very special species that need to be observed and protected. Humans are having the main impact on why the numbers of the dolphin species are decreasing.
We can choose to not add to the problem and become a part of the solution by not supporting or promoting tourist attractions involving encounters and irresponsible animal interactions, becoming more responsible and active when reducing waste, participate and taking part in government and private communication campaigns, encourage others to do the same and informing the world of this species’ significance.
In my opinion, the future is not looking great for marine animals in particular our dolphins. If we don’t act sooner than later.
We can make an impact to change this now and for our future generations and need to start considering ways to help stop this extinction.
In order to protect these species, we must work together to become more environmentally friendly, with ways such as educating the world on this.
We need every single player in the chain to change the way that they do things. We need to think about and prevent Rod-and-Reel Interactions, keeping your distances from these wild species, don’t feed the wild dolphins and report a violation to the marine rescue teams.
Think about; where is your garbage going? Where is residual water going? What is your pollution footprint on the planet?
We have got to monitor our carbon footprint as this can measure our impact on the world around us.