Running Out Of Time: Saving Ocean Wildlife

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Earlier this month, the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature and the Zoological Society of London released their most comprehensive look at the state of life in the sea, which found that the amount of wildlife in our oceans has fallen by half in 45 years. The Our Living Blue Planet report makes uncomfortable reading. It’s an updated study of marine mammals, birds, reptiles and fish, showing that marine populations have declined by 49 percent between 1970 and 2012. As well as being disastrous for ecosystems, these findings on the state of the ocean spell trouble the world over, especially for people in the developing world who depend heavily on the ocean’s resources. Species essential to global food supply, especially in poorer nations where fish provide essential dietary protein, were among the hardest hit reveals this report.

Taking in more than 1,000 species worldwide and 5,000 populations of fish, turtles, marine mammals and a host of others, the report draws the bleak conclusion that there is only half the amount of wildlife in the sea today as in 1970. Marine species around the world are in potentially catastrophic decline. Marco Lambertini, Head of WWF International says, “In the space of a single generation, human activity has severely damaged the ocean by catching fish faster than they can reproduce. Profound changes are needed to ensure abundant ocean life for future generations." Global population sizes of the Scombridae family - the family of the mackerels, tunas and bonitos, which includes many of the most important and familiar food fishes - have fallen by 74 per cent.  Declining stocks of bluefin and yellowfin are of particular concern.

While over-exploitation is identified as the major threat to ocean biodiversity, the study finds that climate change is causing the ocean to change more rapidly than at any other point in millions of years. Rising temperatures and increasing acidity levels caused by carbon dioxide are further weakening a system that is already severely degraded through overfishing, habitat degradation and pollution. Fish are not the only marine organisms in steep decline, as large swathes of mangroves and sea grasses have died off or been hacked away. This includes half of all coral, which has already disappeared. The rest will vanish by 2050 if temperatures continue to rise at current rates. This loss has decimated fish populations and jeopardised some 850 million people who depend directly on these ecosystems for their livelihoods.

WWF is calling on world leaders to prioritise ocean recovery when the United Nations' 15-year Sustainable Development Goals are approved later this month. It stressed that marine life can be restored if the human population starts to live within sustainable limits. The report said the protected global ocean area, currently about 3.4 percent, must be tripled by 2020. It also called on consumers and fish retailers to source from companies that follow certified ‘best practice’ standards. We must take this opportunity to support the ocean and reverse the damage while we still can. We are running out of time. 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia