New Red Lists sound alarm for European birds and marine fishes


Two new European Red Lists, providing the most detailed scientific evidence ever assembled on the state of Europe’s birds and marine fishes, were unveiled during Green Week 2015.

They confirm a worrying picture of general decline in biodiversity, with 12.6 % of birds and 7.5 % of fishes threatened with extinction. Ten bird species are now critically endangered.

No biodiversity means living in a desert. Between being aware of the threat and taking action there is a line, and we need to cross it.

Pia Bucella, Director for Natural Capital,
DG Environment

But not all the news is bad. The lists provide proof that careful conservation activities do work in practice. Stocks of Atlantic cod and Atlantic bluefin tuna are recovering, as are populations of Dalmatian pelicans, while the Azores bullfinch has increased from 40 to 400 pairs. According to Angelo Caserta, BirdLife Regional Director: “Science is telling us that if we act today, then species come back.”

“The Red List assessments are extremely important because they show where we should put our efforts in order to avoid losing species,” said Pia Bucella, Director for Natural Capital in DG Environment. “We are making good use of all this information in policy-making at EU level.”

Combined effort

For half a century, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been drawing up Red Lists warning of the dangers to natural species around the globe. Ten years ago, with funding from the Commission, it launched specific European studies. Some 10 000 species have now been assessed, from mammals and reptiles to dragonflies and medicinal plants. “Overall, at least 1677 – 22.5 % of species in Europe – are threatened,” said Ana Nieto, IUCN’s European Biodiversity Conservation Officer.

“The Red List is not just a list,” said Jean-Christophe Vié, IUCN’s Global Species Programme Deputy Director. “It is based on science and backed by a huge network of experts. It is a starting point for conservation action.” For the two new studies, IUCN enlisted the aid of BirdLife International and hundreds of individual scientists and volunteers.

Among the 1220 species of marine fishes in European waters, sharks and rays are the most critically endangered, with 40 % at risk of extinction. The main threat comes from overfishing, whether targeted or as ‘by-catch’. The dangers for birds, according to BirdLife Europe Research Assistant Christina Ieronymidou, are a result of illegal killing (especially of birds of prey), agriculture, pollution and invasive species.

Caserta blamed intensive agriculture and the EU common agricultural policy for a decline in European bird species. “The Red List is an alarm bell, a call for action,” he concluded. “It’s telling us we need to do something.”


Green Week