Face it: Oceans are dying

This isn’t speculation; it’s fact

How much longer are we going to remain in denial about what’s happening to our planet?

That question arises in the wake a new UN-sponsored study, led by the International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), concluding that life in the oceans is at imminent risk of the worst spate of extinctions in millions of years due to threats such as climate change and over-fishing.

“We now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation,” reads the study prepared by 27 experts, as reported by Reuters. “Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, over-exploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean.”

There have been five mass extinctions in the past 600 million years, the most recent occurring when the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago following an asteroid collision.

Climate change affects the oceans in this way: When carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere, it is absorbed into the oceans, causing acidification harmful to living organisms. Meanwhile, runoff of fertilizers and pollution fosters anoxia, or lack of oxygen, creating vast fish-free dead zones.

The report notes that over-fishing, which accounts for 60 percent of the known extinction of marine fishes, is also the easiest for governments to reverse. Many ocean areas, like the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, are already off-limits, but others must follow to allow their stocks to recover. Otherwise, the one-fifth of the world’s people who depend on fish for their protein—1.4 billion people—face the scourge of long-term malnourishment.

The IPSO report is based on scientific observation. It is not a theory; it is fact. The oceans are dying. What are we going to do about it?