(NaturalNews) World ecologists, toxicologists and fisheries scientists participating in a workshop staged by the International Programme on the State of the Oceans, IPSO, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, at Oxford University, are sounding grim warnings. Overfishing and ocean acidification could bring about a collapse of ocean life or a massive extinction event within a single generation unless humans curb the use of fossil fuels and reverse overfishing. The world`s seas and aquatic life are being sickened by global warming, acidification and loss of oxygen.
27 of the world`s top ocean experts warned that the health of the ocean was declining farther and faster than anyone had reckoned a few years ago and that in millions of years nothing like the current ocean conditions has ever existed. Pollution, overfishing and other causes are acting together to render the ocean toxic. They enumerated the acceleration of dying coral reefs, the devastation of biodiversity by invasive species, the spread of open water dead zones, the presence of toxic algae and the depletion of fish. Dr. Alex Rogers, scientific director of IPSO, and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University, reported that he and his colleagues saw changes in ocean temperature occurring much faster than expected. The changes that people had been predicting would happen in the lifetime of our children, or our children`s children, are happening now before our eyes.
Professor Ove Hoegh Guldberg once conducted a count of peer-reviewed papers on climate change and found there were 20 times more papers associated with land than sea although the ocean provides as much as a quarter of the world`s protein, feeds a fifth of the world`s people, and is the life support system for earth`s atmosphere, cycling oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide.
At present, if nothing is done, Guldberg noted, ``There`s increasing risk that we will be entering into one of these mass extinction events``: where a runaway cascade of unsustainable events will alter life irrevocably.
But with human population set to expand by another 3 billion in the next 30 to 50 years, pressure on the oceans will increase. Human populations destabilize coastline vegetation which causes nutrients and sediments in coastal waterways. In Southeast Asia populations have had ``a damaging effect on our neighborhood,`` Guldberg commented. Marine ecosystems that used to support people were lost.
Jelle Bijma of the Alfred Wegener Institute said current ocean conditions reflected those featured in past mass extinctions. On human time scales we may not realize that we are in the middle of an extinction event,`` Bijma noted. ``But from a geological perspective, mass extinctions happen overnight.``
The current harvesting of 90 percent of some large fish disrupts ocean food chains causing imbalances in algae, jellyfish and other opportunistic plant and animal life. But ``Over fishing,`` William Cheung of the University of East Anglia said, ``can be tackled directly, immediately and effectively by policy change.`` Global warming, however, must be tackled by the use of alternate energy to achieve zero emissions.
The report compiled by the scientists will be presented in New York at the United Nations headquarters.