IUCN, Harte Research Institute Launch Program for the Conservation of Gulf of Mexico Marine Life

January 13, 2014

HRI workshop

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Harte Research Institute (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi have taken a major step forward to provide improved stewardship of the marine life in the Gulf of Mexico during the IUCN Gulf of Mexico Fishes Red List Assessment Workshop held Monday, Jan. 6, through Friday, Jan. 10. 

Dozens of expert scientists from the United States, Mexico, and Cuba gathered to review hundreds of Gulf species to assess the conservation status of these marine fish species. The partnership between the HRI and IUCN already has identified numerous marine species that are in decline, but not actively managed for their recovery in the Gulf ecosystem.

The experts reviewed all available information on a broad range of issues, including conservation status, populational trends, and natural and anthropogenic threats. After reviewing the information, each species will be assigned a Red List category (such as Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, etc.).

Dr. Kent Carpenter, Manager of IUCN Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA) and Professor of Biological Sciences at Old Dominion University, says that red snapper is an example of a fish at risk due to overfishing, which is a main cause for extinction in marine fishes.

“We are doing this for the Gulf of Mexico to determine which marine fishes are in need of conservation action and which species may be at heightened risk in case of another disaster such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” said Carpenter. “Despite the fact that there are management measures in place in the United States, much of the declines are because of continued overfishing in the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico.”

As part of IUCN's GMSA, the group is reviewing the conservation status of all the ocean's vertebrate animals and key groups of invertebrate animals and plants.  The results of the GMSA in the Gulf of Mexico will be used to expand the HRI’s Biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico (BioGoMx) database to enable more effective responses to catastrophic events, such as the BP blowout, and chronic environmental problems in the Gulf. 

“The gathering of experts on Gulf of Mexico fishes at the workshop will produce detailed and species-specific information that will then be used to refine the quality of information currently available at BioGoMx,” said Dr.  Fabio Moretzsohn, Assistant Research Scientist at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “This information will include better distributional maps, conservation status, threats, and in-depth data on habitats, biology, and experts on each species.”