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Deciding Which Endangered Species to Save

Desperate times call for desperate conservation measures, like advocating eating rare birds or endorsing “survival of the cutest.”

The disappearing Dartmoor Hill Pony. Photo by Herbythyme via Wikimedia commons

This is not a good era to care about animals, unless you enjoy heartbreak. The latest count on California’s delta smelt, for instance, was a total of six fish, making it functionally extinct in the California Delta despite two decades under a recovery plan. Due to humanity’s actions, worldwide extinction rates are ballooning at such a quick clip that without some drastic reversal, this century will bring the sixth mass extinction in the history of the world. But there are also success stories amid all the death and sadness, as more energy and money pour into conservation efforts. Countries, organizations, and individuals are tuning in to the impending dangers of rapid biodiversity loss. Not all species can be saved from extinction, though, which leaves us in a multi-headed Sophie’s Choice of sorts: How do we pick which species to save?

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Intermission: Ocean 2012's Beautiful Overfishing Explainer

This 4-minute video explainer on the problems facing the world's fisheries benefits from a gorgeous, pixelated animation style.

[vimeo][/vimeo]

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Wait, a Fishing Hook That Sets Tuna Free?

These new "weak hooks" bend enough to give a greater percentage of the Gulf's bluefin tuna a fighting chance when they're caught accidentally.

If everyone in New York took one or two bites of otoro—the prized belly cut of bluefin tuna—it would probably be enough to wipe the species out of the Atlantic, bringing the prospect of peak tuna one step closer to reality. Making matters worse, bluefin tuna breed in the Gulf of Mexico, and, in addition to the uncertain but undoubtedly harmful consequences of last year's oil spill, they're being caught accidentally by longliners fishing for your canned light tuna (yellowfin) and swordfish.

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