Without the redeeming good looks of other endangered species, the rather unfortunate-looking but aptly-named blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) may not figure in anyone's glitzy conservation campaign. Nevertheless, the fact is that this jiggly, jelly-like creature is threatened with extinction, thanks to the overfishing antics of deep sea trawlers scraping the bottom of Australian and New Zealand waters.
Surviving only within a limited area in these seas, the inedible blobfish live at around 2600 feet (800 meters) deep, in the same zone as more edible species like lobsters and crab. They grow to about 12 inches (30 centimeters) in length and eat whatever organic matter floats in front of them.
"The Australian and New Zealand deep-trawling fishing fleets are some of the most active in the world, so if you are a blobfish then it is not a good place to be," says marine scientist Callum Roberts of the University of York. "We've been overfishing areas up to about 200 meters deep, and now we have moved off those continental shelves and into the deep sea in areas a couple of thousand meters deep."
Roberts also notes the dismal fact that little is known about these deep seas: the only explored area is "about the size of Paris, [while the deep seas]'s a really unexplored area, but we could be destroying it."
Rarely seen on the surface, the blubbery fish is now being dragged up in increasingly large numbers in commercial fishing nets. Overfishing is a huge problem that has a long history and is now changing oceanic ecosystems worldwide - and unfortunately, without further action from consumers and governments and companies alike, the humble blobfish (and who knows what other interdependent species) may be another casualty.
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