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Marine Scientists' Report Says World's Ocean
at Risk of Entering Mass Species Extinction Phase

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, June 24, 2011

An international panel of marine experts warns in a report released this week that the world's ocean is at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species "unprecedented in human history."

Two reasons for a "new extinction event" are overfishing and pollutants such as flame retardant chemicals and detergents.

The report released by the International Program on the State of the Ocean arises from an interdisciplinary international workshop which considered the cumulative impacts of all stressors affecting the ocean.

Considering the latest research across all areas of marine science, the workshop examined the combined effects of pollution, acidification, ocean warming, overfishing and hypoxia, or deoxygenation.

The panel concluded:

"The findings are shocking," said Alex Rogers, scientific director of the IPSO. "As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean the implications became far worse than we had individually realized.

"This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action are every level," Rogers said. "We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact our lifetime, and worse, our children's and generations beyond that."

Marine scientists from institutions around the world had gathered at Oxford University to review recent research by world ocean experts. The report says the scientists "found firm evidence that the effects of climate change, coupled with other human-induced impacts such as over-fishing and nutrient run-off from farming, have already caused a dramatic decline in ocean health."

The scientists say that increasing hypoxia and anoxia (absence of oxygen, known as ocean dead zones) combined with warming of the ocean and acidification are the three factors which have been present in every mass extinction event in Earth's history.

There is strong scientific evidence that these three factors are combining in the ocean again, says the panel, exacerbated by multiple severe stressors. The panel concluded that "a new extinction even was inevitable if the current trajectory of damage continues."

The panel pointed out examples of this "current trajectory" that include:

The scientists said that adding these and other threats together means that the ocean and the ecosystem within it are unable to recover, being constantly bombarded with multiple attacks.

The report includes a series of recommendations and calls on states, regional bodies and the United Nations to enact measures to "better conserve ocean ecosytems" and demand "the urgent adoption of better governance of the largely unprotected high seas which make up the majority of the world's oceans."

Marine Scientists' Report Says World's Ocean at Risk of Entering Mass Species Extinction Phase
Columbia Basin Bulletin, June 24, 2011

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