Plenty of Fishes in the Sea? Think Again.


Hundreds of species of marine life are facing mass extinction as pollution, climate change and overfishing threaten to create a catastrophe “unprecedented in human history”, according to the latest report by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

''The findings are shocking,'' said marine biologist and scientific director of IPSO, Alex Rogers. ''We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime and, worse, our children's and generations beyond that.''

Some of the key scientific conclusions in the report include:

1. Human actions have resulted in warming and acidification of the oceans and are now causing increased hypoxia

2. The speeds of many negative changes to the ocean are near to or are tracking the worst-case scenarios from IPCC and other predictions

3. Resilience of the ocean to climate change impacts is severely compromised by the other stressors from human activities, including fisheries, pollution and habitat destruction.

4. Ecosystem collapse is occurring as a result of both current and emerging stressors.

View a TEDtalk by coral reef ecologist Jeremy Jackson on how humanity is wrecking the ocean

According to the report, overfishing alone has reduced commercial fish stocks and by-catch species by more than 90 percent.

The global fishing industry generates US$246 billion a year but faces annual losses of over US$36 billion if current conditions persist.

According to Dr. Rashid Sumaila, director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia Fishery Centre, “Fish contribute significantly to global well-being through revenues, jobs and through household incomes.

"If you consider what the fish pump into an economy through processing, the restaurants and even agriculture, it's much more than just the landed value."

View an interview with Dr. Sumaila, , who talks about overfishing, its impact on the Ghanaian economy, and the global ramifications of a fish shortage in Africa.

Overfishing may be just one of the many problems that the world’s oceans currently face, but it is perhaps the easiest for governments and societies to solve.

Chris Reid, a professor of oceanography at the Marine Institute of Plymouth University and one of the scientists involved in the report called on the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly to take action in order to ensure protection for the earth’s oceans and marine life.

‘‘Once you’re outside the 200-mile limits of the nation states, it’s an open field,’’ he said. ‘‘So we’re calling for the U.N. and national governments to come up with some kind of agreement to protect the open oceans. At the moment, we’re not doing anything in the oceans sustainably.’’

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