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Extinction risk and conservation of marine bony shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico
- Linardich, Christi, Ralph, Gina M., Robertson, David Ross, Harwell, Heather, Polidoro, Beth A., Lindeman, Kenyon C., Carpenter, Kent E.
- Aquatic conservation 2019 v.29 no.1 pp. 85-101
- biodiversity, conservation status, experts, extinction, fisheries management, guidelines, habitat destruction, habitats, predation, risk, risk assessment, surveys, threatened species, Belize, Caribbean, Cayman Islands, Gulf of Mexico, Panama
- Understanding the conservation status of species is important for prioritizing the allocation of resources to redress or reduce biodiversity loss. Regional organizations that manage threats to the marine biodiversity of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico seek to delineate conservation priorities. This process can be usefully informed by extinction risk assessments conducted under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List criteria: a widely used, objective method to communicate species‐specific conservation needs. Prior to the recent Red List initiatives summarized in this study, the conservation status was known for just one‐quarter of the 1360 Greater Caribbean marine bony shorefishes. During 10 Red List workshops, experts applied data on species' distributions, populations, habitats, and threats in order to assign an extinction risk category to nearly 1000 shorefishes that range in the Greater Caribbean. As conservation is mostly implemented at national and local levels, two more workshops assessed the Gulf of Mexico populations of 940 shorefishes using the regional Red List guidelines. About 5% of these shorefishes are globally or regionally threatened, including 6% of Greater Caribbean endemics and 26% of Gulf endemics. About 9% of the species are Data Deficient. Species‐richness analyses show that the highest numbers of threatened species endemic to the Greater Caribbean are found in Belize, Panama, and the Cayman Islands. The most pervasive threats to the threatened and Near Threatened species are overexploitation, habitat degradation, and predation by the invasive lionfish. Half of the threatened species are experiencing multiple threats that are likely to amplify extinction risk. Recommended actions, in addition to conducting diversity surveys in lesser explored areas, include improving fishery management, reducing habitat degradation, and controlling lionfish populations.