The world’s wildlife populations are declining, according to a new survey, encouraging urgent action to reverse the loss.
Dr. Rebecca Shaw, chief global scientist for the World Wide Fund for Nature, said populations declined an average of 68% between 1970 and 2018. Last week, Alaska canceled the upcoming snow crab season in the Sea of Bering for the first time, after reporting the population had decreased by 80% in four years. Shaw noted that the decline is likely due in part to stress caused by warming waters.
“Snow crab is a great example of exactly what we’re talking about here,” Shaw said. “When they disappear, we don’t know why, but it has a lot to do with the pressure we put on the environment through climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, etc.”
Shaw noted that wildlife populations are declining due to human-driven land-use changes such as infrastructure development, energy production and deforestation, but added that climate change could become in the main cause of biodiversity loss if the increase in temperatures is not controlled.
To make a personal difference, Shaw suggested that people should consciously think about where their food comes from, buy only what they need, and eat what they buy.
“We waste 40% of all the food we produce and harvest,” Shaw said. “If we’re wasting all that food, we’re putting pressure on the planet for no benefit.”
Shaw encouraged food choices that don’t overharvest a particular fish if it’s not sustainable, and avoid products that contribute to deforestation. He stressed that to reduce pressure on wildlife populations, changes must be made in the way that society produces and consumes energy and food.
“If you eat animal protein, you should know that it has a huge impact,” Shaw said. “It doesn’t mean you give up animal protein and the burgers you love, it just means once or twice a week you choose plant protein over animal protein. Really good for you and really good for the health of the planet.”
The report, based on the 50-year Living Planet Index, is published every two years by the World Wide Fund for Nature. It shows that Latin America and the Caribbean saw a whopping average wildlife population loss of 94% and Africa saw a 66% decline, while North America saw just a 20% drop.
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