Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oceans On the Edge of Extinction: international scientific panel issues report that demands our attention

A story is moving quickly through the news media like an Arizona wildfire - from England to India, from the New York Times to Al Jazeera. It's not the latest scandal by a self-indulgent politician or the embarrassment of a foul-mouthed entertainer. It's something that many of us who love and respect the oceans have been wrestling with for some time: multiple man-made stresses on the oceans are threatening marine life with inevitable extinction.

The International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) has released a summary of a study undertaken by a group of world renown scientists who examined all of the solid data on the condition of the oceans. Presented at the United Nations on June 20th, the summary's conclusions have been picked up by hundreds of media outlets and for good reason: the prognosis does not look good if things continue as they currently are, with a
"high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history."

"The findings are shocking,"" said Alex Rogers, scientific director of IPSO. "As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised. This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime, and worse, our children's and generations beyond that."

The summary report concludes with four case studies that focus on several of the key issues. Climate change and acidification, loss of coral reefs, pollution, and overfishing are highlighted not only as activities that are threatening the oceans but also activities that mankind can actually do something about.

I could go on detailing the findings of the IPSO but, instead, I would suggest you read the report yourself - it's available in a long version and shorter version. And I would recommend you read through the IPSO website as it discusses the findings and includes several enlightening videos from many of the scientists involved in the study. These are not just names on a document, hiding behind pronouncements that were destined for oblivion on a library shelf; these are concerned individuals willing to be front and center in announcing that things must change for the better and they must change right now if we expect to have any kind of natural marine resource left for future generations. Visit the State of the Ocean.org website.
Dan Laffoley, of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said, "The world's leading experts on oceans are surprised by the rate and magnitude of changes we are seeing. The challenges for the future of the oceans are vast, but unlike previous generations we know what now needs to happen. The time to protect the blue heart of our planet is now, today and urgent."

Read about the report at State of the Ocean.org.

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