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Scientists Warn Of Mass Extinction Of Marine Species

Coral reefs have been hit hard by ocean acidification, warming, as well as fertilizer and chemical runoff.
Coral reefs have been hit hard by ocean acidification, warming, as well as fertilizer and chemical runoff.
By Antoine Blua
A panel of experts is warning that the oceans are in a worse state than originally thought.

In a new report, experts from various disciplines such as coral-reef ecologists and fisheries scientists conclude that ocean life is "at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history."

Carl Gustaf Lundin is the director of the Global Marine and Polar Program at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which helped produce the report with the International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO).

"We've seen five major rounds of extinctions in the past. And they were generally associated with cosmic events like a big strike of a meteorite or massive volcanic eruptions -- things like that," Lundin tells RFE/RL.

"But now we're actually the ones causing this massive decline ourselves. So we are heading into a massive sixth extinction."

Lundin says the team found firm evidence that human-induced impacts such as climate change, overfishing, and nutrient runoff from farming have already caused a dramatic decline in ocean health.

Fishmongers inspect large bluefin tuna before auction at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market. Can fishing continue in the same way?

Multiplier Effect

But more worrying than this, these factors are acting together.

"The combined effects of some of these things are much worse than we previously thought. Certain types of changes in the past -- anything like storm damage for example, nature had an ability to recover from that relatively quickly and bounce back," Lundin says.

"But now, with all these other effects combined, it's much harder for these systems to really recover."

For instance, ocean acidification due to carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, runoff from nitrogen-rich fertilizer and hormone-disrupting chemicals, overfishing, and warming have all contributed to the mass die-off of corals.

In another example, some pollutants stick to the surfaces of tiny plastic particles that are now found in the ocean bed, increasing the amounts of pollutants consumed by bottom-feeding fish.

The report says the trends are such that a sixth mass extinction is likely to happen -- and far more quickly than any of the previous five.

It notes that previous mass-extinction events have been associated with trends being observed now: depletion of oxygen of seawater, warming, and acidification.

Levels of carbon dioxide being absorbed by the oceans are "already far greater" than at the time of the last great extinction of marine species 55 million years ago, when up to 50 percent of some groups of deep-sea animals were wiped out.

What Can Be Done?

The report's conclusions will be presented at UN headquarters in New York on June 21, when government delegates begin discussions on reforming governance of the oceans.

Heavy oil in a bayou south of Venice, Louisiana.

Ahead of the talks, Alex Rogers, IPSO's scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University, has called for an immediate end to exploitative fishing now.

"Deep-sea fisheries in high-sea areas are essentially unmanaged. The regional fisheries management organizations and states simply do not have data on what's being caught," Rogers says.

"There's evidence of systematic misreporting of catches in many cases. In many other cases they just simply don't know what is actually being taken in these fisheries in terms of target and by-catch."

The panel's immediate recommendations also include reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilizers, and human waste, and making sharp reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.

with agency reports
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by: Matt O'Brien from: Venice, La
June 21, 2011 15:19
What a crock of sh*t. Anyone who thinks these guys know what their talking about should remember East Anglia. They make up data to fit their worldview.
In Response

by: Bruce Hemming from: USA
June 22, 2011 05:35
The panel's immediate recommendations also include reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilizers, and human waste, and making sharp reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.

Oh please same old lies and spin they did in the 70's remember all the experts then the sky is falling, the population bomb, the fear mongering liars of all the people that would starve by the Millions. Same con just a new decade.

by: Michael Rivero from: Honolulu
June 21, 2011 18:53
So here we have the Carbonazis, who have been screaming about human-caused global warming for years, despite three record-setting winters in a row (it snowed in Colorado yesterday, the eve before the summer solstice), and they expect us to take their word that the oceans are dying because of man-made climate change? Not a mention of the crude oil and Corexit that was poured into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic last year, nor any mention of the intense radiation still pouring into the Pacific from Fukushima. Ah yes, it is all the fault of we mere mortals who must be controlled for our own good.

by: robertsgt40 from: San Antonio Texas
June 21, 2011 19:21
"What Can Be Done?"--Well, first of all, you could seize BP's assets until they make Louisiana, Alaska and everywhere else they crap in the environment. Then jail the negligent perps and the Congress critters that didn't enforce existing laws. Repeat same steps at Fukushima with TEPCO and GE. Repeat again at Monsanto.

by: Howard T. Lewis III from: Hawai'i
June 21, 2011 19:44
They better stop their corporate punks from attacking the U.S.long before the solution to old world upper-class twit inbrededness becomes clear to all.

by: Jtownjohn from: Johnstown
June 21, 2011 22:48
Where do they get the information of the last great extinction of sea life. 55million years ago. Definitely we have a problem facing us. Man kind has gotten so that we forget that we are a part of creation not above creation. This Earth is a living entity filled with numerous forms of life manifestations. We just happen to be the the higher intellect. we are doing so many things to destroy the life balance of the Earth. We take tremendous amounts of oil from the ground without replacing the mass we took out. We are putting plastics in the ocean that can't be destroyed and are eaten by some fish. We are putting so much pollution in the air that the atmosphere is causing global warming. WE are destroying huge amounts of rain forest that provide oxygen and support our rainfalls with no care about the efects of these causes. The combination of the causes we are making are like most chemical reactions. One cause makes an effect and then another and so on until the combined effects have created a cause that has an effect of the creation losing needed combinations to support Human life. Will there come a time when the mass of the Earth has changed because of the removal of and use of minerals that become gases. If we keep wasting our environment will the effect become a slight change in our axis. Can we be responsible for a change in the gravitation pull from our sun bringing us closer to the sun. Most of these ideas would be extinction of the Human race. The most vulnerable part of this creation. It sounds like not so good fantasy . But I am glad that at the present it is only fantasy.

by: Karl Niedre from: ZOG
June 22, 2011 05:20
This article mixes some serious issues like hormone-bending chemicals, oil spills, and fertilizer runoff, with total misinformation and drivel.

The oceans aren't becoming acidic because of anthropogenic CO2, and the forces pushing the theory of man-made climate change have been proven to be outright frauds and profiteers. The biggest threat to this planet is genetic manipulation. Change DNA and you change the microbes that form every living thing on the globe, altering the very face of the planet and introducing an entirely new set of diseases against which no one is equipped to fight. How about reporting on that?

by: medicis from: morganton, nc usa
June 22, 2011 05:36
What amazing bs...... .global warming.... climate change.....more money for the new fiat currency.... carbon credits for the elite. NO mention, of course, of all the other factors involved and no acknowledgement that global warming is itself one of the biggest scams in recent history and has no scientific basis except for data made-up in Scotland...

Pitiful.... simply pitiful...

by: Maranara from: US
June 24, 2011 06:41
I find this article simply disgraceful. Global warming...climate change...it's easy blabla, another way to scare us, and to extort more money from governments and institutions. I know there are a lot of people who truly believe in the environmental cause, but many of those so-called scientists are the first ones to hop around the world's best sea resorts, traveling business class, producing plenty of CO2, and spending our money on fine dine and expensive champagne. Why don't we get it right, with them on the front line cleaning oil spills and radioactive, toxic waste, for a start?

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