Protecting culturally significant species

The iconic species sub-goal measures the conservation status of iconic marine species, which are the animals that have unique importance to humans as demonstrated through traditional activities, ethnic or religious practices, existence value, or locally acknowledged aesthetic value.


A high score indicates that few to none of the iconic species in a country’s EEZ have been categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered, threatended, vulnerable, or at risk of extinction. A low score indicates that many are in those categories.

The current score indicates that iconic marine species are not as well protected as possible in many places. Substantial conservation efforts will be required in order to improve the status of many iconic species that call the ocean home.

Trends in Iconic Species are concerning. The global score has, on average, dropped a two fifths of a point every year since 2012, with the largest decrease happening from 2018 to 2019. This decline is mainly due to improving IUCN Red List data across assessments. Since 2018, nearly 3000 more species have been added to the IUCN Red List assessment.

For example, in the 2020 assessment, Qatar’s ICO score dropped 8 points (63 to 55). This is because 5 iconic species (Green Turtle, Whitetip Reef Shark, Blacktip Reef Shark, Gray Reef Shark, and the Great White Shark) were added as new assessments in that region for that year, all of which were classified as vulnerable or endangered by the IUCN.

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