A new study suggests that climate change and over-fishing have gravely endangered ocean life and might cause a wave of extinction across bodies of water.
“We now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation,” says the study conducted by 27 experts.
“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,” it says.
The survey which will be presented to the United Nations, says it is almost late to counter coral reef collapse or the spread of low-oxygen “dead zones.”
Led by the International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), the study lists five mass extinctions over the past 600 million years, the most recent of which was the time when the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago.
Experts say higher temperatures, acidification and lack of oxygen were the cause of previous extinctions and will happen again if use of fossil fuels continues.
“From a geological point of view, mass extinctions happen overnight, but on human timescales we may not realize that we are in the middle of such an event,” wrote Jelle Bijma, of the Alfred Wegener Institute.
Scientists say the easiest way for governments to counter ocean extinction is to reverse over-fishing and use cleaner energies such as wind and solar power.
“Unlike climate change, it can be directly, immediately and effectively tackled by policy change,” said William Cheung of the University of East Anglia.
“Over-fishing is now estimated to account for over 60 percent of the known local and global extinction of marine fishes,” he wrote.
Fish are the main source of protein for one-fifth of the world’s population and the seas cycle oxygen and help absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities, Reuters reported.