UN report exposes alarming decline in migratory species

Migratory humpback whales frolic off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa in July 2023. File Picture: Armand Hough / Independent Newspapers

Migratory humpback whales frolic off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa in July 2023. File Picture: Armand Hough / Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 15, 2024


The inaugural State of the World’s Migratory Species report, launched at the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), delivers a sobering assessment of the precarious state of migratory wildlife populations worldwide.

Key findings from the report reveal a troubling trend, with nearly half of migratory species listed under the CMS experiencing population declines, and over one-fifth facing the looming threat of extinction.

Alarmingly, the risk of extinction is particularly acute for fish species, with an astonishing 97% of CMS-listed fish now under threat, according to the report.

Speaking at the conference, Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), underscores the urgency of the situation, said: "Today’s report clearly shows us that unsustainable human activities are jeopardising the future of migratory species – creatures who not only act as indicators of environmental change but play an integral role in maintaining the function and resilience of our planet’s complex ecosystems."

The report highlights the critical role migratory species play in sustaining ecosystems, from pollination to nutrient transport, underscoring the profound consequences of their decline.

Amy Fraenkel, CMS Executive Secretary, emphasised the need for concerted international efforts to address the threats facing migratory species.

"When species cross national borders, their survival depends on the efforts of all countries in which they are found," Fraenkel said.

While the report identifies positive trends for certain species, including blue and humpback whales, it also underscores the urgent need for greater action to protect all migratory species.

Overexploitation and habitat loss emerge as the primary drivers of species decline, necessitating enhanced conservation measures and international cooperation.

The State of the World’s Migratory Species report issues a set of priority recommendations, including efforts to tackle illegal wildlife trade, expand protected areas, and address climate change and pollution.

The findings serve as a wake-up call for policymakers, urging swift action to safeguard the planet's biodiversity.

As the global wildlife conservation conference unfolds in Uzbekistan, the report provides invaluable scientific insights to inform discussions and shape conservation policies.

With the fate of migratory species hanging in the balance, the urgent call for action reverberates across governments, conservation organisations, and scientific communities worldwide.

IOL Environment