The saying goes that there are plenty of fish in the sea, but...are there? The world’s oceans, rivers, and other waters are home to an incredible array of animals. But for many reasons, those animals are beginning to dwindle. Here are some amazing animals that are either vulnerable or already endangered.
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5. False Killer Whale
True killer whales are not whales at all--they are the largest dolphin on earth. The false killer whale, shown here, is the fourth largest dolphin. They can weigh around 1500 pounds and reach up to 20 feet in length--that’s 680 kg and 6m long.
The population around Hawaii is estimated to have only 123 members left, 46 of whom are able to mate. This genetic pool is so small that they will eventually go extinct due to inbreeding. Abroad, there may be as few as 480 false killer whales alive in the wild. Their biggest threat is commercial fishing. They feed on mahi mahi and other fish that are commercially caught, so the false killer whale is often tangled in fishing nets by accident.
4. Giant Clam
Giant clams are harvested often as a food source, but even more often because they are so beautiful. Their shells are very impressive and there is a huge illegal trade in them. Their shells are often used as jewelry, dishes, and even sinks since the shells can grow to be 120cm across. But they don’t belong in houses, giant clams belong in the wild.
As larvae, they are mobile. Then they find a spot to spend the rest of their lives--which can be a long, long time. Up to 100 years or more, in fact. Giant clams, again, are highly prized as a food source because they are so large. One giant clam measured 137cm across and weighed 250 kg--that’s over four feet and 550 pounds.
Reproduction for giant clams is difficult because they are immobile--so it takes some luck to produce more giant clams. The best way to protect these creatures is to remove the market for their shells. Appreciate them in the ocean, not in your home.
3. Finless Porpoise
The finless porpoise is so called because it lacks a true dorsal fin. Instead, it has a long ridge down its entire back. They are relatively small, growing only to 1.5 meters or 5 feet in length and weighing only around 100 pounds or 45 kg. They live primarily in the Yangtze river, which they shared with the baiji dolphin. In 2006, the baiji dolphin went extinct officially.
Like the baiji dolphin, the finless dolphin is suffering from its proximity to human beings. Its food source is being depleted, like the baiji dolphin. The population is dwindling also due to boat injuries and water pollution.
2. Vaquita Porpoise
The name “vaquita” is Spanish for “little cow,” a name likely given to them due to their interesting color patterns. They are light, with patches of grey, particularly around their eyes, nose, and down their fins. The vaquita is a tiny porpoise, measuring only up to five feet long and weighing only 120 pounds.
They were first discovered in 1958 and in less than 50 years, their population has dwindled to approximately 30 individuals, making them the most endangered marine mammal in the world. They share waters with the highly sought after totoaba, a fish whose bladder is considered a delicacy in asian countries and has been fished illegally for years. This is the main threat to their population, because they are continually drowning in nets meant for totoaba.
Today, conservation efforts might be too little, too late as officials in Mexico attempt to set up a breeding sanctuary for the remaining porpoises.
The hammerhead shark, aside from the Great White, is probably the most recognizable of the carnivorous fish. There are actually nine species of hammerhead sharks, but it is the Great Hammerhead we’re discussing today. They can reach lengths of 6 meters, that’s nearly 20 feet, and weigh 450 kg or 990 pounds. Their bodies are designed for being a top predator and their interesting head shape, for which they are named, gives them 360-degree visibility.
In the wild, hammerhead sharks can live for half a century or more. But few make it that far. They are often fished illegally for their fins. “Finning” is an unethical practice, during which fishermen strip sharks of their coveted dorsal fin and toss the rest of the shark back into the water. If they aren’t caught intentionally, hammerhead sharks will also fall victim to large fishing nets and will drown. This is called bycatch and as we’ve said so far, it’s a threat to many different species.