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Human activity is leading to "a major extinction event" for sea life, scientists say


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(NaturalNews) Though previously thought to be impervious due to its massive size, the collective of the world's oceans may be on the verge of a wide-scale extinction event, according to a new study. Scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, (UCSB) warn that, if human activity continues on its current trajectory, we could be seeing a whole lot more sea animal deaths, and possibly collapses of entire oceanic ecosystems.

Published in the journal Science, the new study suggests a silver lining to this dark cloud -- it's not too late to reverse course, claim experts. It appears as though we have several additional decades to stop destroying the planet and save the oceans from becoming uninhabitable for many of the world's sea creatures. But this is not an excuse to stall coming up with better management and conservation tactics.

"We're lucky in many ways," said Dr. Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University and one of the authors of the new report. "The impacts are accelerating, but they're not so bad we can't reverse them."

Ocean destruction has increased, but there's still time to make things right

According to Dr. Douglas J. McCauley, one of Pinsky's colleagues and lead author of the new study, the world's oceans are still mostly intact, at least compared to the situation on land. If overfishing, excessive pollution and other harmful factors were to be dramatically cut back today, the oceans could almost completely revert back to what they were before humans started destroying them.

This is unlikely to happen anytime soon, of course, but all is not lost -- at least not yet. There is still so much to learn about how marine species live in the vast expanses of blue and black beneath what can be tracked by humans near the surface. For all we know, there are massive populations of fish and marine mammal species hiding in pockets of the ocean that we have yet to even explore.

Drs. Pinsky and McCauley tried to gain a better understanding of all this by collecting data from a wide range of sources, including discoveries logged in the fossil record and statistics on modern-day shipping activities, fish catches and seabed mining. What they found is that there's still time to make things right.

"I see this as a call for action to close the gap between conservation on land and in the sea," commented Loren McClenachan from Colby College, who was not involved in the study, as quoted by The New York Times.

It's not just over-harvesting that's a problem; entire habitats are being lost due to human activity

It's important to note here that modern technological advances have made it significantly easier for humans to cause catastrophic damage to the world's oceans, in ways never before seen. The threat of specific species becoming rare or extinct is dwarfed by the potential loss of entire habitats and ecosystems.

The ability of large trawlers to sweep the seas for fish and shellfish, for instance, has increased yields but at the same time depleted many areas of sea life. Sea mining is also problematic, as contracts now cover some 460,000 square miles of underwater area -- back in 2000, there were zero sea mining contracts.

Then there's Fukushima, which still hasn't stopped releasing radioactive pollution into the Pacific Ocean. The past several years have seen multiple mass die-offs likely caused by such contamination, including thousands of seals, dolphins and other sea creatures that have washed up on shores all around the world.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.nytimes.com

http://obrag.org

http://www.sciencetimes.com
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