Consensus science statements

– Descending from the ivory tower –

Scientists often focus on their research within the hallowed halls of their institutions. However, growing concern with respect to the state of our oceans and our very urgent need to reverse declines has led to an increasing number of “Science Statements” from the research community. These statements provide weight to scientific evidence on the need to act and recommend solutions. In addition to placing pressure on decision-makers, they provide information to the broader community, supporting the public’s desire for healthy oceans.

  • 2016
  • 2011-2015
  • 2006-2010
  • 2001-2005
  • 1999 and prior

February 2016  Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network: What the scientific review should deliver 

  10 signatories – Ocean Science Council of Australia (OSCA)

Excerpt: The Ocean Science Council of Australia (OSCA) is a group of independent marine researchers in the fields of law, ecology, economics and social science, with direct expertise in relation to the development of Australia’s CMR network. We have seen little evidence that the review process has focussed on scientific evidence, rather it appears to have largely been an exercise in appeasing stakeholders with extractive interests. We further note that there has been no formal consultation with OSCA despite our significant capacity to provide input to a scientific review. […] In this context, we provide a series of recommendations on what would be delivered by a scientific review of the CMR network. These relate to (1) a reflection of the vast recent increase in scientific evidence with respect to the benefits of Marine National Parks (also referred to as sanctuary zones, green zones, or highly protected “no-take” marine reserves) and (2) a balanced consideration of economic and other impacts on stakeholders. […]

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February 2015  Statement of support for the creation of marine reserves in the UK Overseas Territories of the Pitcairn Islands, Ascension Island, and the South Sandwich Islands

  44 signatories

Excerpt: The UK has the fifth largest area of ocean in the world under its jurisdiction when its Overseas Territories (UKOTs) are taken into account. Over 94% of the UK’s unique biodiversity is found in the UKOTs, which support a large number of rare and threatened species and habitats found nowhere else on Earth. It makes good economic and environmental sense for the UK to work with its Territories to establish effective networks of marine protected areas throughout all waters under UK jurisdiction.

We the undersigned are calling on the British government to protect over 1.75 million km² of the world’s oceans by creating large-scale and fully-protected marine reserves in three of the UKOTs – the Pitcairn Islands, Ascension Island, and the South Sandwich Islands […]

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July 2014 – Letter of Expert Concern to the WA Environmental Protection Authority on the State Government Proposal for a 3-­Year Lethal Drum Line Program as Part of its Shark Hazard Mitigation Strategy

  301 signatories

Excerpt: As professional marine scientists and experts, we strongly encourage the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) of Western Australia (WA) to reject the Government of Western Australia’s proposal for a 3-­year, lethal drum line program as part of its broader shark hazard mitigation policy. We congratulate the WA State Government on its wider program that involves education, increased surveillance and research. However, there is insufficient scientific evidence to justify a lethal drum line program, either in terms of improvements to ocean safety or with respect to the potential detrimental impacts on shark populations […]

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January 2014 – Science statement on marine park zoning in New South Wales

  222 signatories

Excerpt: We the undersigned marine scientists are concerned that the integrity of the NSW marine parks network and marine conservation objectives will be severely undermined by Government moves to allow recreational fishing in sanctuary zones.

From the cool waters in the south to the warm waters of the north, the coral reefs, estuaries, seagrass meadows, sandy beaches, rocky headlands, kelp beds, sponge gardens, subtidal and deep-water rocky reefs, sandy plains and seamounts in NSW support a rich mix of tropical and temperate marine life. This includes marine turtles, tropical fish and manta rays in the north, blue devilfish, weedy seadragons, fur seals and sharks down south, and humpback whales seasonally migrating along the 2000-kilometre NSW coast […]

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June 2013 – Declaration by concerned scientists on industrial development of the Great Barrier Reef coast

  10 signatories, endorsed by The Australian Coral Reef Society (>250 members), International Coral Reef Society (>700 members), and 144 Australian scientists

Excerpt: Recent scientific evidence continues to document a very serious decline in the quality of the Great Barrier Reef’s inshore habitats and the abundance of key species.

Our concern for the health of the Great Barrier Reef is due to:

• A significant decline in water quality due to land-based sources of pollution to a level that brings environmental harm;

• A 50% decline in coral cover over the last 27 years with a major factor being recurrent plagues of crown-of- thorn starfish driven by the input of land-based nutrients;

• Reductions in the abundance of fish stocks to a degree that targeted species are, at best, half their natural stock size or less;

• Inshore species for which we have information are either threatened or in substantial trouble (e.g. southern dugong populations are significantly smaller than in the mid-1960s, a situation exacerbated by recent extreme weather events10,11, the intensity of which may increase with climate change) […]

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August 2011 – Developing Australia’s national system of marine reserves: A statement of concern about the proposal for Australia’s South West Marine Region

  Endorsed by the AMSA Council on behalf of the Australian Marine Science Association, the ACRS Council on behalf of the Australian Coral Reef Society and 225 scientists

Excerpt: On 5th May 2011 the Australian Government released a draft proposal for a network of marine reserves in the Commonwealth waters of the South West bioregional marine planning region. Australia’s South West is of global significance for marine life because it is a temperate region with an exceptionally high proportion of endemic species – species found nowhere else in the world. Important industries, such as tourism and fisheries, depend on healthy marine ecosystems and the services they provide. Networks of protected areas, with large fully protected core zones, are essential to maintain healthy ecosystems over the long-term – complemented by responsible fisheries management.

The selection and establishment of marine reserves should rest on a strong scientific foundation. We are greatly concerned that what is currently proposed in the Draft South West Plan is not based on the three core science principles of reserve network design: comprehensiveness, adequacy and representation. These principles have been adopted by Australia for establishing our National Reserve System and are recognized internationally […]

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2010 – Scientific rationale for the designation of very large marine reserves

  245+ scientists from 35 countries

Excerpt: More than 245 marine scientists from 35 countries, including Australia, have endorsed the following science statement calling for the establishment of a worldwide system of very large, highly protected marine reserves.

Recently, there have been a number of promising developments in marine conservation. In 2004, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was re-zoned to make one-third of the 344,400 square kilometer park no-take—now the world’s largest marine reserve network; in 2006, two oceanic coral archipelago systems were protected: the 362,000-square-kilometer Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands which became fully no-take in January 2010, and the 408,000 square kilometer Phoenix Islands Protected Area in the Republic of Kiribati which is now partially no-take. In 2009, former U.S. President George W. Bush established three new Marine National Monuments in the Pacific, covering 505,000 square kilometers, with 60 percent being no-take. And finally, in 2010, the United Kingdom established the 544,000 square kilometer Chagos Protected Areaas the largest no?take reserve in the world.

The goal of Global Ocean Legacy is to identify and secure protection for additional largemarine ecosystems—until recently protected only by their geographic isolation—before significant environmental degradation can occur. The expected benefits of these reserves include:

1. Ensuring that top predators such as sharks, swordfish and marine mammals remain abundant and preserving exemplars of relatively intact food webs that are free from severe depletion.

2. Providing reference sites for future scientific research and public education.

3. Matching the scale of management to the scale of important ecosystem processes, such as dispersal and migration of many species. Offshore islands and reefs are typically small and relatively isolated from each other compared to continental coastlines. Consequently, marine species at isolated locations have fewer and more distant sources of replenishment. Effective management should protect the entire life?cycle of species.

4. Improving resilience to the accelerating impacts of climate change. A growing body of evidence indicates that protecting the structure of foodwebs and maintaining the ecological function of targeted species is critical for building resilience and preventing regime?shifts to degraded ecosystems.

5. Ensuring the long-term recovery, conservation and maintenance of populations of highly mobile and migratory species. Large reserves protect a sufficient expanse of ocean to provide important habitat and refugia for species such as tuna, sharks, seabirds, turtles and marine mammals.

6. Ensuring protection whilst minimizing social and economic costs. Very large no?take marine reserves are highly appropriate for remote, relatively intact areas because they protect biodiversity, species and habitat in areas where there are few existing uses and therefore minimal potential conflicts and costs to society.

7. Enhancing the global reputations of managing nations. Countries that create very large no?take areas will be recognized as world leaders in developing new solutions for the stewardship of marine biodiversity […]

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August 2010 – Open letter to the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition: Science supporting marine protected areas

  152 signatories

Excerpt: Dear Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott,

Recently articles have appeared in State and national press suggesting that there is little or no scientific evidence to support the creation of systems of marine protected areas. This is false. In this letter we briefly discuss the scientific evidence that shows marine protected areas have very positive impacts on biodiversity, and in many cases fisheries as well. Some reserve systems also produce substantial economic benefits through tourism, as well as providing important educational, inspirational and research opportunities.

Here we use the definition of marine protected areas of the Australian Marine Science Association (AMSA): areas of the ocean or coastal seas, securely reserved and effectively protected from at least some threats. In the discussion below, we look briefly at threats to the marine environment, the history of marine protected areas, the development of networks of MPAs in Australia (against a background of bioregional planning), and their importance to Australia in an uncertain future.

The marine environment faces five general threats: climate change and ocean acidification resulting from rising CO levels, overfishing, habitat damage, pollution, and the effects of alien organisms. On the global scene, modern fishing activities constitute the most important threat to marine biodiversity at the present time, although this will change in the near future as rising CO levels affect ocean chemistry, temperatures and sea levels. Fishing activities in Australia have had damaging effects on biodiversity. Well known examples include the orange roughy where populations (and their fragile coral habitats) have been massively reduced by commercial fishing, and the east coast grey nurse shark, where historic recreational fishing pressures combined with commercial bycatch could result in the regional extinction of this species. While area protection clearly cannot be effective against all threats (eg: ocean acidification) it can provide protection from important threats such as fishing and habitat damage […]

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December 2008 – Position statement on marine protected areas (Australian Marine Science Association, AMSA)

Excerpt: Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers over 11 million km2, and is the third largest in the world. Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, and the Convention on Biological Diversity 1992 (CBD) Australia has obligations to use the marine resources of the EEZ wisely, and to protect its biodiversity. Australia has agreed, through its participation in the CBD, to establish (by 2012) and maintain a network of marine and coastal protected areas that are representative, effectively managed, ecologically based, consistent with international law, based on scientific information, and include a range of levels of protection. There is minimum target of “at least 10% of each of the world’s ecological regions effectively conserved” by 2012 […]

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2007 – Consensus Statement on Marine Protected Areas in South Australia: Scientists support marine park sanctuaries

  9 leading Australian marine scientists and planners

Excerpt: As Australian marine scientists and planners with experience researching our oceans extending over decades, we the undersigned see a need for improved conservation efforts in our seas and estuaries. There is abundant evidence from overseas and within Australia that marine protected areas (MPAs) have important effects on marine ecosystems, in particular for conserving biodiversity. MPAs that include areas closed to fishing should be embraced as an important tool for marine management that needs to complement, and be complemented by, other strategies. Furthermore, MPAs should be used as a precautionary tool to assist with conserving biodiversity and not delayed on the basis of insufficient scientific knowledge. Biological diversity is fundamental to healthy and resilient ecosystems.

Key threats to Australia’s marine biodiversity include:

• Climate change;

• Invasive species and pest populations;

• Habitat loss and habitat fragmentation;

• Harvesting components of ecological systems that possess a habitat-forming or habitat-modifying role;

• Over-harvesting of species; and

• Pollution […]

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2006 – National statement on Marine Protected Areas from Australia’s marine scientists

  Endorsed by the Australian Marine Sciences Association and the Australian Coral Reef Society

Excerpt: The Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA) and the Australian Coral Reef Society (ACRS) are Australia’s peak professional bodies for marine scientists, with over 1500 members collectively. We wish to make the following statement regarding sanctuary, conservation or no-take zones in Marine Protected Areas.

MPAs in Australia have a number of different aims depending on location, but generally are designed and managed to protect biodiversity and ecological processes while ensuring sustainable human use and activities. This is often achieved by dividing the MPA into zones with different levels of protection, although some MPAs have a single, consistent level of protection. Sanctuary zones, also known as conservation or no-take zones, offer the highest level of protection for marine life, while various types of recreational and/or commercial activities are provided for in other zones. MPAs are designed so they contain a comprehensive, adequate and representative sample of marine and estuarine biodiversity using internationally accepted guidelines. This is achieved through protection of a range of habitat types such as seagrass beds, reefs and offshore areas since each habitat represents a unique set of biodiversity values.

Recently, governments in Australia have committed to national and international agreements to protect marine biodiversity through the declaration of a national representative system of MPAs (known as the NRSMPA). The vast majority of ecologists and marine scientists agree on the value of MPAs to marine biodiversity and sustainable fisheries. We are concerned by suggestions that MPAs are of no value to the conservation of marine life and are an economic threat to coastal communities and fishing. Comments to the effect that no good evidence exists for the value of MPAs, and that most scientists dispute their value, are incorrect or misguided. This Statement clarifies these issues and states the position of two professional Australian marine science organisations.

Given the perilous state of coastal marine environments and the various pressures on Australia’s marine life, we believe that MPAs provide one essential management tool in the toolbox for maintaining marine biodiversity and healthy coastal ecosystems […]

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June 2005 – In support of no-take zones and other marine protected areas: A policy statement by the PEW Fellows in Marine Conservation

  39 signatories

Excerpt: We urge the nationals of the world to fulfill their commitment to the future of the oceans as agreed at the World Summit for Sustainable Development. At this meeting, 192 countries called for “the establishment of networks of representative Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in all major marine habitats and climatic regions throughout the world’s oceans by 2012”. We agree that a system of MPAs, incorporating partially and fully protected areas, is essential for long-term survival of marine life and resources. In this document, we offer policy guidelines to achieve this global objective.

We use the term MPA to refer to a place in the sea where human activities are regulated. MPAs embrace a broad array of zones, from areas where most forms of extraction and activity are permitted under precautionary management, to areas where all extraction is banned (no-take). MPAs are among the most powerful and reliable tools available for marine conservation, whether along the coast or in the open ocean. They help maintain populations and protect habitats, while revealing (through comparisons) how areas outside their borders are changing. MPAs serve as elements of a larger, integrated strategy of ocean management that includes precautionary approaches to fisheries exploitation, pollution control, and negotiations among multiple users.

Many forms of zoning will make significant contributions, but no-take MPAs are essential components of any marine conservation strategy. By protecting all parts of the ecosystem, they allow us to evaluate our impact elsewhere. MPAs are most effective when linked into networks, which are sets of individual MPAs connected by movement of marine life across space and time. A network should enable populations of marine animals and plants to persist in the face of diverse threats. Networks are valuable in all marine habitats, including seagrasses, mangroves, coral reefs, estuaries, sea mounts, abyssal plains and open oceans. Generating MPAs and melding them into functioning networks requires regional, national and local engagement. By combining MPAs that vary in size, spacing and level of protection, communities can establish MPA networks that meet their own conservation needs. We recommend the following sixteen priority actions to achieve the MPA goal set at the Johannesburg meeting in 2002 […]

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March 2005 – Scientific Consensus Statement on Marine Ecosystem-Based Management (Prepared by scientists and policy experts to provide information about coasts and oceans to U.S. policy-makers)

  198 signatories

Excerpt: The scientific understanding of marine ecosystems has advanced considerably over the last few decades. We now have a much greater appreciation of how the oceans support and sustain human life by providing services such as seafood; medicine; nutrient cycling; water purification; protection of shores from erosion and storm damage; moderation of climate and weather; recreation; and spiritual, religious, and other nonmaterial benefits. The interactions among species within ecosystems generate these services. Healthy, intact, resilient marine ecosystems have a greater capacity to provide the full range of benefits that Americans say they want from oceans.

Management that emphasizes the protection of ecosystem structure, functioning, and key processes is much more likely to ensure the long-term delivery of these important services. From a governance perspective, implementation of an ecosystem approach will enable more coordinated and sustainable management of activities that affect the oceans. Ecosystem-based management should reduce duplication and conflicts, and in the long run will likely be more cost-effective. A delay in implementing management based on an ecosystem approach will result in continued conflicts over resources, degradation of ocean ecosystems, disruption of fisheries, loss of recreational opportunities, health risks to humans and wildlife and loss of biodiversity.

This document reflects our scientific understanding about marine ecosystems and the concepts of ecosystem-based management, specifically (1) what the term ‘ecosystem-based management’ means, (2) what is an ecosystem, (3) core scientific knowledge about ecosystems, (4) key elements of ecosystem-based management, and (5) actions consistent with an ecosystem approach […]

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June 2004 – NFCC Consensus Statement: Integrating Marine Reserve Science and Fisheries Management

  39 signatories.

Excerpt: The widespread degradation of coastal ocean ecosystems, attendant losses in biodiversity, and depleted status of many fishery stocks led the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy to call for a new era of ecosystem-based management. Ecosystem-based management encompasses all ecosystem components, including human and nonhuman species and their environments. In its July, 2004 report, the Commission recommends such management be based on principles of sustainability, precaution, adaptation, and participatory governance and use the best available science. Marine reserves, areas completely protected in perpetuity from all extractive and destructive activities, are being widely considered as a component of ecosystem-based management. While using marine reserves for biodiversity and ecosystem conservation is generally accepted, their potential role in fisheries management is controversial.

Conservation advocates and some scientists have argued that marine reserves protect multiple stocks from over-exploitation in ways that conventional management methods that limit fishing effort or catches cannot or have not been able to do. Commercial and recreational fishing interests consider marine reserves as one more means to permanently limit their access to renewable resources. Some fishery scientists have argued that many fishery management objectives of marine reserves can be attained by effectively employing conventional measures and that marine reserves alone do not ensure sustainable fisheries management. This two-and-a-half-day conference examined the current state of knowledge regarding the integration of marine reserve science and U.S. fisheries management. Experts presented the latest research findings to an independent Consensus Development Panel […]

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April 2002 – AMSA position statement of marine protected areas

Excerpt: 1.1 Following Australia’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1994 the Nation assumed responsibility for an area of ocean nearly twice the size of mainland Australia. Only a small proportion (less than 5%) of this ocean territory has been mapped and an even smaller fraction of its biological communities described.

1.2 Australia’s sovereignty over what is one of the three largest marine territories of any nation carries with it both benefits and obligations. While we have the right to develop its resources we are also charged with the responsibility of doing so in an environmentally sustainable manner.

1.3 One management strategy which has been proposed by the Commonwealth Government for conservation of marine ecosystems is the development of a national representative system of Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s).

1.4 Progressive implementation of MPA’s by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments has normally been accompanied by a community consultation process. During these consultations a wide range of views on the nature and merits of MPA’s have been expressed by stakeholders. Plans to implement MPA’s are sometimes controversial.

1.5 This paper has been produced in order to make clear the general views of the Australian Marine Sciences Association in these important debates.

Marine Science and MPA’s

2.1 AMSA is Australia’s largest professional association of marine scientists with over 900 members nationally. The AMSA mission is: “AMSA – Advancing Marine Science in Australia”. AMSA’s objectives are to: • promote, develop and assist in the study of all branches of marine science in Australia; • provide for the exchange of information and ideas between those concerned with marine science; and • engage in public debate where we have specialist knowledge.

2.2 Marine scientists have an interest in MPA’s for a variety of reasons including: • some marine scientists are users of marine areas that are (or may be) subjected to conservation measures; • certain branches of marine science are directly concerned with marine conservation; • certain branches of marine science are concerned with the consequences of marine conservation practices on other human uses of the marine environment; and • some marine scientists supply information used in decision-making for management of conservation areas.

2.3 AMSA believes that marine scientists: • are legitimate users of marine protected areas; and • have an important role to play in the planning and management of marine protected areas […]

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February 2001 – Scientific consensus statement on marine reserves and marine protected areas

  161 signatories

Excerpt: The first formal marine reserves were established more than two decades ago. Recent analyses of the changes occurring within these MRVs allow us to make the following conclusions:

Ecological effects within reserve boundaries: ? Reserves result in long-lasting and often rapid increases in the abundance, diversity and productivity of marine organisms. ? These changes are due to decreased mortality, decreased habitat destruction and to indirect ecosystem effects. ? Reserves reduce the probability of extinction for marine species resident within them. ? Increased reserve size results in increased benefits, but even small reserves have positive effects. ? Full protection (which usually requires adequate enforcement and public involvement) is critical to achieve this full range of benefits. Marine protected areas do not provide the same benefits as marine reserves.

Ecological effects outside reserve boundaries: In the few studies that have examined spillover effects, the size and abundance of exploited species increase in areas adjacent to reserves. ? There is increasing evidence that reserves replenish populations regionally via larval export.

Ecological effects of reserve networks: There is increasing evidence that a network of reserves buffers against the vagaries of environmental variability and provides significantly greater protection for marine communities than a single reserve. An effective network needs to ? span large geographic distances and ? encompass a substantial area to protect against catastrophes and ? provide a stable platform for the long-term persistence of marine communities.

Analyses of the best available evidence leads us to conclude that:

Reserves conserve both fisheries and biodiversity. ? To meet goals for fisheries and biodiversity conservation, reserves must encompass the diversity of marine habitats. ? Reserves are the best way to protect resident species and provide heritage protection to important habitats. ? Reserves must be established and operated in the context of other management tools. ? Reserves need a dedicated program to monitor and evaluate their impacts both within and outside their boundaries. ? Reserves provide a critical benchmark for the evaluation of threats to ocean communities. ? Networks of reserves will be necessary for long-term fishery and conservation benefits. ? Existing scientific information justifies the immediate application of fully protected marine reserves as a central management tool […]

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1998 – Troubled waters: A call for action

  1504 signatories

Excerpt: We, the undersigned marine scientists and conservation biologists, call upon the world’s citizens and governments to recognize that the living sea is in trouble and to take decisive action. We must act quickly to stop further severe, irreversible damage to the sea’s biological diversity and integrity.

Marine ecosystems are home to many phyla that live nowhere else. As vital components of our planet’s life support systems, they protect shorelines from flooding, break down wastes, moderate climate and maintain a breathable atmosphere. Marine species provide a livelihood for millions of people, food, medicines, raw materials and recreation for billions, and are intrinsically important.

Life in the world’s estuaries, coastal waters, enclosed seas and oceans is increasingly threatened by:

1) overexploitation of species,

2) physical alteration of ecosystems,

3) pollution,

4) introduction of alien species, and

5) global atmospheric change.

Scientists have documented the extinction of marine species, disappearance of ecosystems and loss of resources worth billions of dollars. Overfishing has eliminated all but a handful of California’s white abalones. Swordfish fisheries have collapsed as more boats armed with better technology chase ever fewer fish. Northern right whales have not recovered six decades after their exploitation supposedly ceased. Steller sea lion populations have dwindled as fishing for their food has intensified. Cyanide and dynamite fishing are destroying the world’s richest coral reefs. Bottom trawling is scouring continental shelf seabeds from the poles to the tropics. Mangrove forests are vanishing. Logging and farming on hillsides are exposing soils to rains that wash silt into the sea, killing kelps and reef corals. Nutrients from sewage and toxic chemicals from industry are overnourishing and poisoning estuaries, coastal waters and enclosed seas. Millions of seabirds have been oiled, drowned by longlines, and deprived of nesting beaches by development and nest-robbing cats and rats. Alien species introduced intentionally or as stowaways in ships’ ballast tanks have become dominant species in marine ecosystems around the world. Reef corals are succumbing to diseases or undergoing mass bleaching in many places. There is no doubt that the sea’s biological diversity and integrity are in trouble […]

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