Danger of Mass Extinction of Marine Species
June 20th, 2011
Marine scientists at a high-level international workshop at the University of Oxford have warned that the world’s ocean is at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.
Delegates called for urgent and unequivocal action to halt further declines in ocean health. Fish, sharks, whales and other marine species are disappearing at a far faster rate than anyone had predicted, a study by the group found. Mass extinction of species will be “inevitable” if current trends continue, researchers said.
The conference, called by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) was the first inter-disciplinary international meeting of marine scientists of its kind and was designed to consider the cumulative impact of multiple stressors on the ocean, including warming, acidification and overfishing.
Overfishing, pollution, run-off of fertilizers from farming and the warming and acidification of the seas caused by increasing carbon dioxide emissions are combining to put marine creatures in extreme danger. The scientists said the challenges facing the oceans created “the conditions associated with every previous major extinction of species in Earth’s history”.
“The findings are shocking,” said Alex Rogers, scientific director of Ipso. “As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised. This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime, and worse, our children’s and generations beyond that.”
The Ocean is a critically important part of the system that supports life on Earth. In addition to being an integral part of the carbon, water and nutrient cycles, the ocean supplies the oxygen in every second breath we take.
Marine life could still be be protected even though original fish stocks have been reduced by 90%. The most important step, would be to stop the current system of unregulated over-fishing on the High Seas. We also need globally to reduce our use of carbon-intensive fossil fuels (through a combination of conservation, energy efficiency and shifting to clean renewable energy alternatives), halt deforestation and overfishing, stop the production and discharge of dangerous pollutants, and prevent habitat degradation.