Climate countdown The animal species imperiled by Trump's war on the environment A humpback whale breaches in the Pacific Ocean. The Trump administration has withdrawn regulations aimed at preventing humpbacks and other creatures from being entangled in nets off the west coast. Photograph: Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images Despite a grim outlook for American biodiversity, Trump has lifted protections for at-risk animals as part of his aggressive rollback of environmental rules 75 ways Trump made America dirtier and the planet warmer by Paola Rosa-Aquino Main image: A humpback whale breaches in the Pacific Ocean. The Trump administration has withdrawn regulations aimed at preventing humpbacks and other creatures from being entangled in nets off the west coast. Photograph: Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images The prognosis for biodiversity on Earth is grim. According to a sobering report released by the United Nations last year, 1 million land and marine species across the globe are threatened with extinction – more than at any other period in human history. According to a recent study, about 20% of the countries in the world risk ecosystem collapse due to the destruction of wildlife and their habitats, a result of human activity in tandem with a warming climate. The United States is the ninth most at risk. Despite this desperate outlook, the Trump administration, as part of its aggressive rollback of regulations designed to protect the environment, has lifted protections for America’s animals. It has shrunk several national monuments and opened up a huge amount of federal land for oil and gas drilling, coalmining and other industrial activities – actions that conservationists warn could imperil species whose numbers are already dwindling and that are core to the health of our ecosystems. Here we look at some of the animals most at risk from Trump’s rollbacks. Wolverines
Bad weather has forced search-and-rescue teams to suspend a search for Fungie, a dolphin who has vanished off the coast of Kerry after almost 40 years of enchanting fishermen and visitors to the south-western tip of Ireland.The wildlife celebrity has not been seen for six days, prompting fears he is sick or has died and that a magical era for the Dingle peninsula has ended.A small fleet of boats and a team of four divers started searching the mouth of Dingle harbour after the alarm was raised last week. They found nothing. Nor did a sonar scan of the seabed. The search was called off on Monday amid torrential rain and warnings of gale-force winds.“There’s still hope, Gary Brosnan, a boatman who facilitated the sonar scan on his boat, told RTE. “If Fungie has died there’s a good chance we’d have found him in one of the inlets or caves. No news is good news.”On Sunday the sonar showed a dark object on the seabed that appeared shaped like a dolphin, said Brosnan. “We were sure it was him. Thankfully, when the divers went down, it turned out to be a smooth rock.”Fans of the mammal have shared memories and photos on social media.The common bottlenose dolphin appeared off Dingle in 1983 and attracted attention as a solitary creature who nevertheless had a playful nature and liked to interact with humans. Fungie inspired widespread affection and media reports. As his fame spread, tourism in the town prospered and up to a dozen boats operated daily trips.Locals hope he is pursuing sprat driven offshore by an easterly wind, or perhaps hiding from the reported presence of other dolphins and whales, and that he will return.Fungie is at least 38 years old. Males can live at least 40 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Conservation State of Nature in the EU survey finds only a quarter of species have good conservation status
Authorities in the democratic island of Taiwan recently arrested a man for smuggling fish parts used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and health foods.The man was caught with a haul of totoaba fish swim bladders -- the part of the fish that allows it to control the depth at which it swims.Traditional restorative recipes have long called for fish parts, based on TCM principles, but fish parts were until recently sourced closer to home, along the south and eastern China seaboard.But skyrocketing commercialization of TCM ingredients in recent decades effectively wiped out the yellow-lipped fish species that had once been caught in huge numbers in the East and South China Seas.Now, smugglers and black marketeers are plying a roaring trade in the totoaba fish, which is found in the Gulf of California in Mexico.Taiwan authorities, working with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), seized 19 kilograms of totoaba swim bladder in July and August, with an estimated black market value of U.S.$900,000, the island's Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) said.The raid followed a tip-off to the CIB from the FBI that the fish would enter Taiwan en route to China using international express courier delivery.The giant totoaba fish was added to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1976, making the trade in its parts illegal.Nonetheless, smuggling continues, fueled by massive profits and high prices for totoaba swim bladders on the black market.Chang Chih-wei, a researcher at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Taiwan, said what is happening to the totoaba has already befallen the yellow-lipped fish native to Chinese waters."In the 1950s and 1960s, yellow-lipped fish along the southeastern coast of China were caught in large numbers," Chang told RFA."Then catch numbers fell dramatically during the 1990s, to around one percent of hauls that were seen in the 1960s," he said."When the yellow-lipped fish was fished to the point of extinction, dealers turned to the totoaba as a replacement," Chang said.Sales forced undergroundHall Sion Chan, project director at Greenpeace East Asia, said it is very rare to see swim bladders, also known as fish maw, offered for sale openly in Hong Kong, where authorities have been cracking down on the trade in recent years."There are almost no seafood stores that still sell them publicly, so they are being forced more and more underground," Chan told RFA. "Customs will seize them in smuggling cases from time to time."She added: "Hong Kong is still a smuggling center [for fish parts]. They may not be sold in Hong Kong, but they are just re-exported to mainland China."Demand for fish parts has remained buoyant even during the coronavirus pandemic.In June 2020, Hong Kong Customs seized 160 kilograms of totoaba parts in the biggest haul to date.Greenpeace has also investigated and exposed merchants selling the parts in Hong Kong.Oceanographer Zhao Ning says totoaba populations have been devastated by the trade."It only lives in the Gulf of California, Mexico, and its swim bladder looks very similar to the yellow-lipped fish along the coast of China," Zhao said."It is said that it can stop bleeding and strengthen yang energy," he said. "To put it bluntly, it's basically protein."Attempts to crack downZhao said the Chinese authorities have made some attempts to crack down on the trade, which is run by highly organized criminal gangs."In 2016, Guangzhou Customs asked me to take a class and teach them how to identify these parts," Zhao said. "They went on to crack a large number of smuggling cases."He said public awareness of the issue is still next to non-existent, however."They don't care whether they are endangered or not endangered, as long as the fish maw is good and thick," Zhao said.Chang said the craze for fish maw has led to its being sold to investors as a good place to earn a return on their cash.The trend only accelerated the decline of totoaba populations."Totoaba can grow up to two meters long and weigh 100 kilograms," Chang said. "They live a very long time and grow slowly, only becoming sexually mature at around six or seven years. They only spawn once a year."He added: "Adult fish live in relatively deep water habitats and reproduce in groups, so mixed catches in fishing areas can wipe out all of them."Fishermen seize evidenceIn 2015, the Greenpeace ship Hope cruised to Mexico to collect evidence of illegal fishing and remove nets."Some of our colleagues were there to take photos and video, and to remove nets," Greenpeace's Chan said. "But their evidence was seized by local fishermen.""Any outsider who tries to get involved could be putting their life in danger," she said."The illegal fishing and smuggling industries are dominated by the criminal underworld," Chan said. "They control the location and number of fishing nets ... and even pay bribes to Mexican officials."The nets used to catch totoaba have also been responsible for wiping out populations of a local dolphin species, the vaquita, Zhao Ning said."In 1997, there were more than 600 vaquita, but there were only an estimated six to 22 left this year," Zhao said. "It could end up extinct in 2021."Chan said the issue won't go away unless governments take a more pro-active role in enforcing international regulations governing trade in endangered species under CITES."Hong Kong needs to step up investigation of underground black market networks, while China must forcefully suppress and curb trade [in fish parts]," Chan said."Mexico should put strict controls in place to cut off the sources [of the trade], such as banning the use of barbed nets," she said."This could be the last glimmer of hope for the totoaba and the vaquita."Reported by Mai Xiaotian for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.