So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish…

Flickr, Ben Sutherland
Written by Ethan M. Long

The past couple of decades has seen a disconcerting trend of declining populations in species across the world, according to a report released this week by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London. “Population sizes of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish fell by half on average in just 40 years,” the report states.

The Living Planet Index (LPI) collects data inclusive of “10,380 populations of 3,038 vertebrate species,” which has been hurt significantly, mainly by human exploitation, but also affected by habitat degradation and climate change.

According to the report, marine life has been hurt the most.  “The period from 1970 through to the mid- 1980s experienced the steepest decline, after which there was some stability – but more recently, population numbers have been falling again,” it states.

From 1970 to now, there has been a 50 percent reduction in the population of all fish. What’s worse is that because of the symbiosis of these ecosystems and the food webs wherein, more than just fish are threatened by this drop.

It says that three-quarters of the coral reefs on Earth are in danger, which is bad because they are the home to more than 25 percent of all marine life. In addition to the coral reefs, a third of all seagrass that existed in 1970 is gone.

Why are they in danger? “Increased fishing, poor water quality from coastal agriculture, deforestation, coastal development and shipping, as well as rising ocean temperatures and acidity brought on by global warming.”

The report goes in-depth into the causes it identifies as putting pressure on the ocean.

Overfishing has been happening because the demand for fish worldwide has grown.  “This is depleting many coastal fisheries and causing fishing fleets to look further and fish deeper into international waters,” the report says. “New species and areas are being targeted as traditional stocks become exhausted.”

It says that 40 percent of fishing territories are now 200m deep, stating that addressing overfishing in the “coastal waters and the high seas remains an urgent challenge.”

Tourism generated 9.8 percent of the global GDP, with 80 percent of all tourism being based close to bodies of water. “Poorly planned development of hotels and resorts in coastal areas can result in habitat destruction, pollution, and other negative impacts on local communities as well as biodiversity,” the report states, also criticizing cruise ships for dumping “garbage and untreated sewage at sea.”

Of course, climate change is a contributing pressure on the ocean. “In the last 200 years, the ocean has absorbed around a third of the CO2 produced by human activities and has absorbed over 90 per cent of the extra heat trapped by the rising concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases,” it states, which has contributed to rising pH levels. If CO2 output continues at the same rate, “the ocean will become too warm for coral reefs by 2050,” while the ocean itself will warm up three to five degrees celsius by 2100.

A third of all extraction sites for gas and oil takes place off shore, including the Arctic sites Obama recently approved for Shell’s use. If an oil spill were to happen, it would definitely disturb the marine life as well as damage the habitat.

“There are no binding global standards on environment and safety, liability provision and oil spill response and preparedness regarding oil and gas operations (except for the transport of oil and gas),” the report says.

The WWF advocates towards changes, including the need of human civilization to “preserve natural capital,” “produce better,” and “consume more wisely.”


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Source: WWF Report


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About the author

Ethan M. Long

Ethan Long is a journalist based out of Boston, MA.

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish…

by Ethan M. Long
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