The central initiative of the Marine Biodiversity Unit (MBU) is the completion of the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA) – assessing the extinction risk of 20,000 marine species for inclusion on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species using the IUCN Categories and Criteria. This project was initiated in 2005 by the IUCN Species Survival Commission and is producing species-specific baseline data and comprehensive analyses needed to develop targeted and coordinated marine conservation planning and action at global, regional, and national scale. Priority species groups for assessments include all of the world’s known marine vertebrates; primary habitat producers such as corals, seagrasses and mangroves; and selected invertebrate families of crustaceans, echinoderms, and molluscs.
Assessments are typically accomplished in a workshop setting that allows for MBU-facilitated application of the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria by scientific experts across disciplines including taxonomy, fisheries science, marine ecology, and marine conservation. Following a workshop, the resulting data is peer-reviewed and made freely available for download on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Published assessments have been used to inform global and national conservation initiatives including national endangered species listings, global and regional species richness and hotspot analyses, and the identification of Key Marine Biodiversity Areas.