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New research from NYU Abu Dhabi and the International Union for Conservation of Nature reports elevated extinction risks for marine bony fishes in the Arabian Gulf

Sunday, January 20, 2019/ Editor -  

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Fast facts:
  • About 8% of bony fishes in the Arabian Gulf are threatened, double that of other assessed regions
  • Major threats include overfishing and coastal development
  • Highest threat is in species-rich nearshore areas
Abu Dhabi, UAE, January 20, 2019:  According to new research from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), NYU Abu Dhabi, and other collaborators, 8.2% of marine bony fishes in the Arabian Gulf are threatened with extinction, which is at least twice the proportion of other regions where similar assessments have been implemented.
 
The study evaluated the regional conservation status of 471 species of marine bony fishes in the Arabian Gulf. Primary threats include fisheries and harvesting, and coastal development and loss of habitat, impacting 47% and 32% of marine bony fishes, respectively. 
 
Such threats are particularly severe in nearshore areas where spatial analyses indicated high species richness - the number of different species represented in an ecological community, landscape, or region.
 
Associate Professor of Biology at NYU Abu Dhabi and co-author of the study John Burt said: “This research provides important insights into the conservation status of regional fish species. Given the high diversity and the economic importance of fishes in the region, the development of regionally-focused assessment of extinction risk will allow marine managers and policy makers to target their efforts towards the most vulnerable species.” 
 
He added: “The Gulf is a relatively small and isolated body of water that is surrounded by eight rapidly developing nations. There is a strong need for coordinated conservation efforts among the regional nations to manage these shared fish stocks and to limit trans-boundary threats to marine systems.”
 
The research shows that threats to fish biodiversity mainly come from overfishing and from loss of habitat related to coastal development, particularly in species-rich nearshore areas along the coast of the UAE and the western Arabian Gulf. Loss of these species is likely to have significant effects on food web dynamics and the availability of fishes for human consumption in the future. The authors recommend that strong conservation and management efforts coordinated at the regional scale are necessary to reduce threats to these ecologically and economically important marine resources.
 
This study has been published in Biological Conservation.

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