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Ocean Life Facing Mass Extinction

New study shows results of climate change and over-fishing

The chickens, or their ocean equivalents, are coming home to roost.

A new study, led by the International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), concludes that life in the oceans is heading for the worst number of extinctions in millions of years, due to climate change, pollution and over-fishing. It says that time is running short if we are to be able to do anything to stop the collapse of coral reefs or the spread of dead zones.

The study, which will be presented to the United Nations, was conducted by 27 experts from 18 organizations in six countries. Their conclusion:

“We now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation.

“Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, over-exploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean.”

At a workshop at Oxford University in the U.K., Jelle Bijma of the Alfred Wegener Institute explained that ocean life is facing the same “deadly trio” of threats that caused mass extinctions in the oceans millions of years ago: higher temperatures due to greenhouse gases, acidification which occurs as CO2 is absorbed in the ocean, and lack of oxygen – in this case due to run-off fertilizers and pollution.

On top of that, ocean life is being killed off by overfishing. But unlike climate change, which many scientists say has already gone over the tipping point, over-fishing can be stopped in its tracks immediately, if we have the will.

“Over-fishing is now estimated to account for over 60 percent of the known local and global extinction of marine fishes,” said William Cheung, one of the authors of the study.

More about the study at the International Program on the State of the Ocean

And you can download a summary of the report here.