Marine Species Have Been Cut in Half in Just 40 Years

The sheer vastness of the oceans on this planet make it seem almost impossible that our actions could bring them to the point of no return, but a new report has found that we are causing an alarming decline of marine ecosystems and the species who rely on them.

According to the World Wildlife Fund‘s (WWF) recently released Living Blue Planet Report, marine populations have declined by an astonishing 49 percent between 1970 and 2012, with with some fish species, including tuna, declining by almost 75 percent.

The report is based on trends of 5,829 populations of 1,234 mammal, bird, reptile and fish species found in the Living Planet Index, which is maintained by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

“The ocean works hard in the background to keep us alive, generating half of the world’s oxygen and absorbing almost a third of the carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels. It also feeds billions of people around the globe, some of whom rely solely on the oceans to survive. These devastating figures reveal how quickly human beings are changing the wildlife in our oceans and are a stark warning of the problems we might face as a result,” said Professor Ken Norris, Director of Science at ZSL.

The dramatic decrease is unsurprisingly driven mainly by human activities ranging from overfishing, resource extraction, pollution and development to climate change, which is causing warming and acidification.

While fish are declining at a worrying rate, they’re not the only ones we should be worried about. The report also explores the impact losing coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses would have not only on the species who rely on them for food and shelter, but on us.

The loss of marine life threatens food security and the livelihoods of coastal communities who depend on healthy ecosystems, in addition to impacting the ever-growing tourism industry.

Conservationists hope that raising awareness about the devastating impact we’re having also means there’s still hope we can work to change course before it’s too late.

WWF and ZSL both point to the need for making immediate changes, including increasing Marine Protected Areas, which could have huge environmental and economic benefits well into the future. Currently, less than 4 percent of the earth’s oceans have been protected.

World leaders will meet later this month at the United Nations headquarters in New York City to agree on a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which focuses specifically on conserving the ocean. They’ll also meet again later this year in Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, where they will try to reach a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The good news is there are abundant opportunities to reverse these trends,” said Brad Ack, senior vice president for oceans at WWF. “Stopping black market fishing, protecting coral reefs, mangroves and other critical ocean habitats, and striking a deal in Paris to slash carbon pollution are all good for the ocean, the economy, and people. Now is the time for the US and other world players to lead on these important opportunities.”

For more info, check out the Living Blue Planet Report.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

99 comments

Mark Donner
Mark Donner1 years ago

There are three things wrong with lumping everyone in the category of "we":

1) Assigning any life form the label of "human" is an extreme insult.

2) No "human" (commonly referred to as "we") has any role in any ecosystem on Earth, and humans do not have rights to even one square inch of Planet Earth.

3) Not all the overpopulated two-legged hairless monkey like thingies are in the category of "human". That would be saying all are stupid, destructive and psychopathic Surprisingly, some of those things who resemble "humans" actually care about Planet Earth.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

interesting

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Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell2 years ago

Thanks

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Corey Brideau
Corey Brideau2 years ago

something right out of nightmares

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Joseph Belisle
Joseph Belisle2 years ago

Pay no attention to this article. And worship the great god Economy! You here it all over the news. The Republicans talk of little else. Even the Democrats (sans Bernie). We have to pay tribute to the great god Economy through rampant Capitalism that means all must be sacrificed to feed it's insatiable appetite. You may think this post is over the top. But it really isn't. Just read the news. Check out the bills that go through Congress. Especially what the Repubs are selling. It all moves by money. Everyone worries more about the Economy than actual life. And they all claim that self destructive capitalism is the only thing acceptable to keep that monster going. If you want to see what motivates countries and most peoples, it's money. If we keep this up, the good news is it won't be money for much longer. It will be food and water. But then it will be too late.

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Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege2 years ago

Horrible! 78.000 whales were killed in the 19th century, it was an industry. But things aren't any better now.

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Sherri S.
Sherri S2 years ago

We need serious population control and more people that actively do something to change this scenario. Unless humans wake up and take a stand, we will certainly destroy this earth and everything on it!

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Ruhee B.
Ruhee B2 years ago

Shocking but the worse of it is that most people just don't care. We deserve to go the same way as every other species that we're killing off!

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Fred L.
Fred L2 years ago

It's amazing how little regard humans have for Mother Nature. We take as much as we can from her, without regard for sustainability, and at the same time we poison her with our waste products. What a malignant virus we turned out to be.

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