According to a new United Nations report released on Monday, almost half of the world’s migratory species are facing a decline, including songbirds, sea turtles, whales, sharks, and other migratory animals. These species move to different environments with changing seasons and are threatened by habitat loss, illegal hunting and fishing, pollution, and climate change. The report found that about 44% of migratory species worldwide are declining in population, with more than a fifth of the nearly 1,200 species monitored by the U.N. being threatened with extinction.
Kelly Malsch, the lead author of the report, noted that these are species that move around the globe and are essential to feed and breed, as well as needing stopover sites along the way. Habitat loss or other threats at any point in their journey can lead to dwindling populations. Duke University ecologist Stuart Pimm, who was not involved in the report, emphasized the importance of migration to certain species and warned that cutting migration could lead to the extinction of these species.
The report relied on existing data, including information from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, which tracks whether a species is endangered. At the U.N. wildlife conference in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, participants planned to evaluate proposals for conservation measures and whether to formally list several new species of concern. Susan Lieberman, vice president for international policy at the nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Society, stressed that one country alone cannot save the species and that conservation efforts will require a collaborative and multinational approach.
During the meeting, eight governments from South America are expected to propose adding two species of declining Amazon catfish to the U.N. treaty’s list of migratory species of concern. The Amazon River basin is world’s largest freshwater system, and Lieberman emphasized the importance of protecting the habitat to ensure the survival of the catfish. Furthermore, governments pledged in 2022 to protect 30% of the planet’s land and water resources for conservation at the U.N. Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada.