WWF was created more than 50 years ago to mobilize funding for the conservation of wildlife and this is still at the heart of what we do. From the thousands of threatened species that inspire us to feel awe and joy, WWF focuses efforts on those species whose protection will ensure conservation of key habitats and global biodiversity. Local efforts are aimed at protecting species that play an important role in securing people’s livelihoods and wellbeing and some ecoregions receive special attention for housing particularly high levels of biodiversity, endemic species or unique habitats.
Increasing global demand for fish along with unsustainable and illegal fishing practices have led to dramatic decreases in fish stocks with populations of fish used by humans declining by 50% between 1970 and 2010. Bycatch, or the trapping of species not sought for sale, causes the loss of billions of fish each year, and needlessly kills or injures endangered sea turtles, sharks, whales, dolphins and seabirds.
80% of all tourism is based near the sea and when seaside areas are developed without proper planning or management, it threatens coastal and marine ecosystems. Heavy cruise ship traffic, improper sewage disposal, and removal of habitats that secure and protect the shoreline all contribute to degrade ecosystems and the species and livelihoods they support.
Urban development, industry and agriculture place a heavy toll on water quality. Nutrients from improperly treated sewage and fertilizers, pollution from pesticides and industrial processes, and sediment from erosion degrade water quality in freshwater rivers and streams that eventually empty into the ocean, impacting freshwater and marine ecosystems.
Natural systems are complex and delicately balanced. A small shift of one element, like temperature, can threaten to collapse the entire system. In the marine environment increasing water temperature, ocean acidity and more frequent and severe storms, are killing coral reefs, degrading coastlines and driving key fish species to deeper waters. At the current rate of water temperature rise, scientists predict coral reefs may disappear by 2050. Inland, the changing climate also effects species distribution, freshwater availability and precipitation, setting off a cascade of impacts to people and nature.