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The Top 7 Marine Species That We Need To Protect & Why

March 04, 2019 3 min read

The Top 7 Marine Species That We Need To Protect & Why

Can you imagine a world without the richness and beauty of the oceans and seas? Unfortunately, our fascinating underwater ecosystems face numerous threats. From the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to climate change, from an incessant demand from the fishing industry to its accidental tolls on species, our marine life faces numerous risks on a daily basis.
Here are 7 key endangered species that highlight how our human activity impacts the beautiful biodiversity of the oceans and seas.

1. Hawksbill Sea Turtles

Beloved for their vibrantly patterned shells, critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles have declined by as much as 80 percent over the past century. They are trafficked for their meat and shells, particularly in touristic regions of the tropics. They also face the dilemma of food scarcity because they depend on the coral reefs, which also face threats. Yet, we cannot deny the importance of these fascinating creatures, because they tell the story of ancient natural history. They’re the direct descendants of reptiles that lived 100 million years ago.  

2. Staghorn Coral

Are you as alarmed as we are about the coral bleaching event underway in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia? Coral species around the world are in stark decline due to ocean acidification from the rising temperatures brought by climate change. The staghorn coral species, endemic to the Caribbean, was the first coral to be listed as an endangered species in 2006. It is currently classified as critically endangered. Now, a total of 22 species are considered threatened. Known as the “rainforests of the sea,” coral reefs provide habitat to a multitude of underwater creatures. They even capture carbon like trees and provide oxygen to marine life.   


3. Vaquita

A petite porpoise with a short nose and dark rings around its eyes, the Vaquita lives off the coast of the Baja Peninsula south of California. However, due to gillnet fishing and continual decline since the 1970s, there are only about a dozen left in existence. They are on the verge of extinction as a consequence of unintentional fishing risks.   


4. Southern Bluefin Tuna

Tuna are the racehorses of the sea. Some species of tuna can swim over 40 miles per hour. Most tuna species face risks of overfishing due to high demand in the sushi market and other commercial fishing endeavors. A critically endangered species, the southern bluefin tuna lives in the southern hemisphere in the coastal waters of Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, and Australia. Threats to the species include overfishing and illegal fishing.

5. Blue whale

The largest and loudest living creature on the planet, blue whales live by sweeping up about 4 tons of krill through their baleen a day. Their primary food source, however, is being negatively impacted by climate change and ocean acidification. Thanks to commercial whaling restrictions, blue whales are no longer threatened directly by hunting. Along with other whales, some blue whales have been found dead on beaches with plastic in their stomachs, which tragically reminds us of the dangers of plastic waste in the ocean.


6. Hawaiian Monk Seal

Unlike ice seals, monk seals are unique in that they live in warm waters. Only two types exist in the world: the Mediterranean and Hawaiian monk seal. A third kind, the Caribbean monk seal has already become extinct. The endangered Hawaiian monk seal has a history of struggle with mankind. They were victims of the underwater military weapons testing activity in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. This activity, along with fishing bycatch (unintended harm from fishing), commercial hunting, predation from other species, and food scarcity has all contributed to its decline. We don’t want to lose these adorable oceanic mammals.  


7. Galapagos Penguin

Small but mighty, the Galapagos penguin is the only penguin species found in both hemispheres. With a population of less than 2000, the species faces risks that reveal the complexity of our planetary dilemmas. Climate change and pollution are affecting their habitat by disrupting their breeding grounds and reducing their food supplies. Meanwhile, invasive species such as dogs have brought them disease. They also suffer as unintended victims of the fishing industry.


For information on how you can help protect endangered marine species, visit the World Wildlife Fund and Ocean Conservancy websites.