The state of our oceans

A panel of scientists has today concluded that the planets oceans are in an even worse state that previously considered, with some referring to the results as “shocking”.

The report, written by experts on coral reefs, fisheries, climate and pollution that form the International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) concludes that ocean life is “at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”. The reason for this decline in marine life is human induced climate change, pollution and over-fishing.

“What we’re seeing at the moment is unprecedented in the fossil record” said Alex Rogers, Scientific Director of the IPSO and Professor of conservation biology at Oxford University. In the past, mass extinctions took place over millions of years, not overnight as often perceived. The rate of decline seen today exceeds the speed at which the previous 5 mass extinctions took place, which some say indicates that we are now moving into a 6th period of mass extinction. The report concludes that is too early to say definitively that this is the case, but warns that current trends indicate that such a situation is likely to occur in the future.

The report presented to government at the UN headquarters in New York later this week during discussions on the reform of ocean governance. The publication will recommend three main changes to marine policy:

1. Making swift reductions in green house gas emissions
2. Reducing the input of pollutants
3. Bringing a stop to exploitative fishing

Pressures to implement action are supported both economically and in terms of human welfare. At present, coral reefs are estimated to be worth millions through tourism and for sea-defense, but 75% are at risk of severe decline. While a huge 70% of the world’s population reply on fish as their main source of protein, yet 50% of fisheries still remain classified as unsustainable in the UK alone.

Report contributor Dan Laffoley, an advisor to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) however remained positive, saying that “unlike previous generations, we know what now needs to happen”.