Marine life catastrophe: how we are killing off our oceans
Published 05/10/2010 | 05:00
Mankind has had a much more damaging impact on the world's oceans than previously thought, according to a landmark new study.
The Census of Marine Life looked for the first time at the history of exploitation of the oceans. It found that, on average, large fish and marine mammals have declined by 90pc since records began.
Endangered species include the blue whale, sea turtles and birds like the albatross. The study also found a decline in phytoplankton, the microscopic creatures that live in the bottom of the ocean and sustain much of the seafood eaten by humans.
The census was commissioned in 2000 to find out the state of marine life, amid growing concern about over-fishing and mineral exploitation. It involved more than 2,700 scientists in 80 countries.
Ron O'Dor, a senior scientist at the census, said mankind's greed has had a catastrophic effect on the ocean and every mammal, shellfish or large fish that was used by humans was in danger of dying out.
"The pristine ocean is a very distant memory," he said. "There are only a few areas of the world where oceans are non-impacted by humans."
The census estimated that altogether there were around one million species in the ocean. Almost 250,000 have already been found by scientists, while 750,000 are yet to be discovered.
Some 6,000 new species were discovered in this census, including a hairy "yeti crab", a 20ft long squid and a shrimp that was thought to have died out 50 million years ago.
However, Dr O'Dor said these new species could also be lost unless attitudes changed.
"Ninety per cent of the big fish are gone -- but if we leave them alone they could come back." (© Daily Telegraph, London)