Health of oceans 'declining fast'

 
Coral reef Corals are likely to suffer as a result of the changes to our oceans

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The health of the world’s oceans is deteriorating even faster than had previously been thought, a report says.

A review from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), warns that the oceans are facing multiple threats.

They are being heated by climate change, turned slowly less alkaline by absorbing CO2, and suffering from overfishing and pollution.

The report warns that dead zones formed by fertiliser run-off are a problem.

It says conditions are ripe for the sort of mass extinction event that has afflicted the oceans in the past.

It says: “We have been taking the ocean for granted. It has been shielding us from the worst effects of accelerating climate change by absorbing excess CO2 from the atmosphere.

“Whilst terrestrial temperature increases may be experiencing a pause, the ocean continues to warm regardless. For the most part, however, the public and policymakers are failing to recognise - or choosing to ignore - the severity of the situation.”

It says the cocktail of threats facing the ocean is more powerful than the individual problems themselves.

Coral reefs, for instance, are suffering from the higher temperatures and the effects of acidification whilst also being weakened by bad fishing practices, pollution, siltation and toxic algal blooms.

Atmospheric threshold

IPSO, funded by charitable foundations, is publishing a set of five papers based on workshops in 2011 and 2012 in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN’s) World Commission on Protected Areas.

The reports call for world governments to halt CO2 increase at 450ppm. Any higher, they say, will cause massive acidification later in the century as the CO2 is absorbed into the sea.

It urges much more focused fisheries management, and a priority list for tackling the key groups of chemicals that cause most harm.

It wants the governments to negotiate a new agreement for the sustainable fishing in the high oceans to be policed by a new global high seas enforcement agency.

The IUCN’s Prof Dan Laffoley said: "What these latest reports make absolutely clear is that deferring action will increase costs in the future and lead to even greater, perhaps irreversible, losses.

"The UN climate report confirmed that the ocean is bearing the brunt of human-induced changes to our planet. These findings give us more cause for alarm – but also a roadmap for action. We must use it."

'Extinction risk'

The co-coordinator, Prof Alex Rogers from Oxford University has been asked to advise the UN's own oceans assessment but he told BBC News he had led the IPSO initiative because: "It’s important to have something which is completely independent in any way from state influence and to say things which experts in the field felt was really needed to be said."

He said concern had grown over the past year thanks to papers signalling that past extinctions had involved warming seas, acidification and low oxygen levels. All are on the rise today.

He agreed there was debate on whether fisheries are recovering by better management following examples in the US and Europe, but said it seemed clear that globally they were not.

He also admitted a debate about whether overall climate change would increase the amount of fish produced in the sea. Melting sea ice would increase fisheries near the poles whilst stratification of warmer waters in the tropics would reduce mixing of nutrients and lead to lower production, he said.

He said dead zones globally appeared to be increasing although this may reflect increased reporting.

"On ocean acidification, we are seeing effects that no-one predicted like the inability of fish to detect their environments properly. It’s clear that it will affect many species. We really do have to get a grip on what’s going on in the oceans," he said.

Follow Roger on Twitter

 

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  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 339.

    This is very sad but also very unsurprising -_- and the only thing thats going to happen is debate it waste money talking about it try and pitifully doing something find nothing is really changing and go back to square one again. Just like everything else. There really is no hope for man kind if we continue the way we are heading.

  • rate this
    +30

    Comment number 222.

    At the end of the day we all have responsibility in the wellbeing of our life support system, planet earth.
    Do we wait for catastrophy, massive loss of life & chaos & government imposed restrictions, or do we act with logic & the inteligence we have evolved.
    Consumers have power to change so much, spending, materialism, behaviours, actions & most important, aspirations, for worse or good,

  • rate this
    +27

    Comment number 208.

    This is obvious. The methods used for commercial fishing combbined with industrial pollution are destroying our underwater world. Sadly without international buy-in & a paradigm shift, this problem will only get worse.

    Make documentaries now, because in a few decades most of these animals & plants species will be gone.

    All thanks to a generation that enriched themselves & ruined our planet.

  • rate this
    +95

    Comment number 111.

    There is no waste bin on planet earth. It's a closed system. We can't throw things away - all we can do is move them around. Putting things out of sight means nothing to the rest of nature. Every gram of toxic chemical that's manufactured has got to go somewhere.

    "Chuck it overboard" was the attitude of sailors in more innocent days. Now innocence has gone. Adult responsibility is demanded.

  • rate this
    +67

    Comment number 106.

    Offer the governments of the world the choice between GDP growth of 5% or a sustainable clean-up of the planet and they'd choose the former every time. Long-term planning doesn't come into it anymore (if it ever did!).

    One day, perhaps not even that far away, the chickens will come home to roost. It's hard to say that we, the human race, won't deserve everything that is coming our way.

 

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