Animal migrations are one of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring phenomena in nature, involving millions of animals moving across vast distances and habitats. However, these migrations are also under serious threat from human activities, such as fishing, fencing, and development, which are causing population declines and extinctions of many migratory species. A new report by the United Nations Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species reveals the alarming state of the world’s migratory animals, and calls for urgent action to protect them.
The First-Ever Global Stocktake of Migratory Species
The report, titled Living Planet Report: Migratory Species, is the first-ever global stocktake of the status and trends of migratory species, covering 1,189 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and insects. The report is based on data from 2000 to 2020, and uses various indicators, such as population size, distribution, threats, and conservation measures, to assess the health and well-being of migratory species.
The report shows that nearly half (44%) of the migratory species have experienced population declines, and more than a quarter (27%) have experienced population increases. The report also shows that the situation is worse for marine species, with 90% of migratory fish species threatened with extinction. The report identifies overexploitation, habitat loss and degradation, climate change, pollution, and invasive species as the main drivers of the decline and extinction of migratory species.
The Impacts of Human Activities on Animal Migrations
The report highlights how human activities have disrupted and destroyed the natural patterns and pathways of animal migrations, and how this has affected their survival and reproduction. Some of the impacts of human activities on animal migrations are:
- Fishing: Fishing is the most common and direct form of human exploitation of migratory species, especially marine species. Fishing not only targets migratory species for food, but also catches them as bycatch, or unwanted catch, which often results in their injury or death. Fishing also affects the availability and quality of food sources for migratory species, and alters their migration routes and timings.
- Fencing: Fencing is a common form of human intervention in terrestrial habitats, which aims to control the movement of animals for various purposes, such as agriculture, livestock, security, or conservation. Fencing not only blocks and fragments the migration corridors and habitats of migratory species, but also exposes them to predation, disease, starvation, and conflict with humans and other animals.
- Development: Development is a broad term that encompasses various forms of human activities that alter the natural landscape and environment, such as urbanization, industrialization, mining, infrastructure, and tourism. Development not only reduces and degrades the habitat and resources of migratory species, but also introduces noise, light, and chemical pollution, which can affect their behavior, physiology, and health.
The Need for Urgent and Collaborative Action
The report warns that the loss and extinction of migratory species will have profound and irreversible consequences for the ecosystems and human well-being, as migratory species play vital roles in pollination, seed dispersal, nutrient cycling, pest control, and food security. The report also emphasizes that the conservation and management of migratory species require urgent and collaborative action, as migratory species cross multiple boundaries and jurisdictions, and face multiple threats and challenges.
The report recommends several actions and measures to protect and restore the migratory species and their habitats, such as:
- Implementing and enforcing international and national laws and agreements that regulate the exploitation and trade of migratory species, and that promote their conservation and sustainable use.
- Establishing and expanding protected areas and corridors that cover the critical habitats and routes of migratory species, and that ensure their connectivity and functionality.
- Reducing and mitigating the impacts of human activities on migratory species and their habitats, such as fishing, fencing, and development, and adopting best practices and standards that minimize the harm and maximize the benefit for migratory species.
- Enhancing the monitoring and research of migratory species and their migrations, and improving the data and knowledge sharing among different stakeholders and sectors.
- Raising the awareness and engagement of the public and the policymakers about the importance and value of migratory species and their migrations, and fostering a culture of respect and appreciation for them.