Oceana warns about the unprecedent loss of marine biodiversity

On the occasion of the International Day of Biological Biodiversity, the international marine conservation organization highlights that the number of known terrestrial species is 6 times higher than known marine species, and calls for an urgent push for m

Press Release Date: May 21, 2010

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana alerts us to the high amount of biodiversity that is being lost in the marine environment due to human activities and calls for an urgent push to research these species before they disappear. The celebration of the International Day of Biological Biodiversity to be held next May 22nd, within the framework of the International Year of Biodiversity, must stress the seriousness of sea dumping, habitats destruction and climate change. This is causing the loss of numerous species before they are studied. At present, the number of known terrestrial species is six times greater than that of marine species, even though the total figure could be similar.

The Census of Marine Life (CoML), the greatest international scientific cooperation project, has managed to classify some 230,000 marine species. However, it is estimated that between 1.5 and 10 million species inhabit the ocean, even thought the final number could reach the 40 million according to some researchers. This gives just an idea of the huge existing lack of information. In land, around 1.4 million species are known; the latest estimates indicate that there could actually exist more than 40 million.

In addition to the lack of knowledge, the marine environment is losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. The acidification of its waters as a consequence of increased CO2 emissions, the decimation of commercial species from excessive fishing, the deterioration of ecosystems and the continuous dumping of garbage and hydrocarbons into the sea are accelerating the loss of biodiversity in the oceans. This situation proves the need of increasing all efforts to study and protect the marine environment.

In this regards, the catamaran, Oceana Ranger has sailed the waters of the Pacific, Caribbean, Atlantic, Mediterranean and the Bay of Biscay since 2005. The thousands of photographs taken and the hundreds of hours of videotaping have provided Oceana with extensive documentation on ecosystems, rare species and illegal fishing activities; this data is used a posteriori as scientific support to conduct further studies.

“The need to continue increasing the marine researching efforts is evident due to its high levels of biodiversity findings and to its fundamental role in the global ecosystem’s balance. As a source of life, the ocean is the home of a wide variety of species yet to be discovered. We will not achieve a full understanding of ecosystems as long as we do not discover what our oceans conceal. The most optimistic estimates indicate that only 14% of the known species are marine species, but this percentage may be even lower”, states Ricardo Aguilar, Research Director for Oceana Europe.

The fragility of marine habitats, especially the very deep ones, requires special attention to developing marine environment-related activities. A balanced development that fosters small-scale fishing, the halt of fossil fuels use through the implementation of renewable energies and a proper treatment of the waste thrown into the sea would allow a considerable reduction of the impacts that are affecting the marine environment.


Oceana TV: Biodiversity in the Canary Islands, the Bay of Biscay and Spanish Mediterranean

Oceana has photographs and video footage available