Humans are the greatest enemies and destroyers of ocean life, and they barely know it. Ocean life is suffering unprecedented damage and humans are on the verge of causing a mass extinction of valuable marine life and oceanic habitats due to their un-ecological activities.
Although it is not too late to reverse the evils unleashed on our oceans and their inhabitants, Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research said “We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event.” But since a change in human action and activities could help the oceans to bounce back to ecological health, Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University said “We’re lucky in many ways. The impacts are accelerating, but they’re not so bad we can’t reverse them.”
It is never so easy to assess the ecological health of the oceans, even with modern scientific equipment; and judging the health of marine life living underwater over thousands of miles is much more harder, but Drs. Pinsky and McCauley together with their associates pulled data from a wide range of sources that covered fossil records, container shipping statistics, fish catches, and seabed mining among others to determine the levels of damage man has done to the ocean and its teeming life, and how this impacts on human life on land.
“I see this as a call for action to close the gap between conservation on land and in the sea,” said Loren McClenachan of Colby College, who was not involved in the study.
Humans are harming the oceans to the point that certain ocean species are over-harvested; there is large-scale habitat loss; coral reefs have declined by 40% worldwide; ocean life are migrating to other regions; and carbon emissions are altering the chemistry of seawater and making it more acidic; bottom trawler vessels are turning continental shelf into rubble; and underwater mining operations as well as seabed mining has destroyed ecosystems and introduce pollution into the deep seas.
“If you cranked up the aquarium heater and dumped some acid in the water, your fish would not be very happy,” Dr. Pinsky said. “In effect, that’s what we’re doing to the oceans.”
“Marine species are not immune to extinction on a large scale,” said Dr. McCauley. “Fundamentally, we’re a terrestrial predator,” he said. “It’s hard for an ape to drive something in the ocean extinct.”
And Dr. Stephen R. Palumbi of Stanford University argued that “If by the end of the century we’re not off the business-as-usual curve we are now, I honestly feel there’s not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean. But in the meantime, we do have a chance to do what we can. We have a couple decades more than we thought we had, so let’s please not waste it.”
He and his colleagues maintain that limiting industrialization of the oceans would allow threatened marine life to recover, and that these reserves had to be designed with climate change in mind, so that species escaping high temperatures or low pH would be able to find refuge.