The first marine fish has been declared extinct in a tipping point for marine biodiversity

In a very sad state of affairs, which reminds us extinction is forever, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared the Java Stingaree, a small species of ray related to stingrays, is extinct.

It is the first marine fish extinction as a result of human activity.

The species, Urolophus javanicus, was so rare that it was known only from a single specimen collected in 1862 from a fish market in Jakarta, Indonesia. 

However, despite extensive monitoring and surveys of fish markets by an international team of researchers, no additional specimens have been found.

“A range of fish landing sites along the northern coast of Java and across Indonesia have been monitored extensively but they have not recorded the Java Stingaree,” says Benaya Simeon, a PhD candidate at Charles Darwin University (CDU), Australia.

The Java Stingaree was a unique dinner plate-sized ray.

A global biodiversity 850
The Java Stingaree specimen collected in 1862 from a fish market in Jakarta, Indonesia. Credit: Edda Aßel, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.

The news comes as the IUCN released its updated Red List of Threatened Species this week. It now includes 157,190 species, of which 44,016 are threatened with extinction.

“Intensive and generally unregulated fishing is likely the major threat resulting in the depletion of the Java Stingaree population, with coastal fish catches in the Java Sea already declining by the 1870s,” says lead researcher Julia Constance, also a PhD candidate at CDU.

“The northern coast of Java, particularly Jakarta Bay where the species was known to occur, is also heavily industrialised, with extensive, long-term habitat loss and degradation. These impacts were severe enough to unfortunately cause the extinction of this species.”

Dr Peter Kyne, a senior research fellow at CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, adds that the loss of the Java Stingaree is a tipping point for marine biodiversity. 

“The Java Stingaree being named as extinct is a warning sign for everyone across the world that we must protect threatened marine species,” he says.

“We must think about appropriate management strategies like protecting habitat and reducing overfishing while also securing the livelihoods of people reliant on fish resources.” 

According to Kyne there are more than 120 Critically Endangered marine fishes in the world.

“Extinction is forever, and unless we can secure populations of threatened marine species around the globe, the Java Stingaree will only be the tip of the iceberg,” adds Constance.

Subscribe to ultramarine from riaus

Do you care about the oceans? Are you interested in scientific developments that affect them? Then our email newsletter Ultramarine is for you. Click here to become a subscriber.

The Ultramarine project – focussing on research and innovation in our marine environments – is supported by Minderoo Foundation.

Please login to favourite this article.