The population of ocean vertebrates showed an alarming decline of 49% between 1970 and 2012, according to the Living Blue Planet Report published last week by the World Wildlife Fund.
“The evidence, analyzed by researchers at the Zoological Society of London, paints a troubling picture,” WWF reports. “In addition to the plummeting number of marine vertebrate species, populations of locally and commercially fished fish species have fallen by half, with some of the most important species experiencing even greater declines.”
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The report “tracks 5,829 populations of 1,234 mammal, bird, reptile, and fish species through a marine living planet index,” the organization explains in a post on EcoWatch.
“Global climate is one of the major drivers causing the ocean to change more rapidly than at any other point in millions of years,” WWF adds. “The oceans store huge quantities of energy and heat, but as the climate responds to increasing carbon emissions, the exchange intensifies. This may result in extreme weather events, changing ocean currents, rising sea temperatures and increasing acidity levels—all of which aggravate the negative impacts of overfishing and other major threats such as habitat degradation and pollution.”
WWF says there’s still time to “secure a living ocean” if governments, businesses, communities, and consumers take action.
“To reverse the downward trend, we need to preserve the oceans’ natural capital, produce better, consume more wisely, and ensure sustainable financing and governance,” the organization states. “Our ocean needs a strong global climate deal,” and “more needs to be done to prioritize ocean and coastal habitat health.”