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University of York scientist predicts ocean apocalypse
Caribbean coral reefs, which could be lost through acidification of the oceans. Picture: Prof Callum Roberts
A SCIENTIST from the University of York is predicting an apocalyptic future for the world’s oceans because of overfishing, pollution, acidification and warming.
Even orange clown fish – stars of the hit film Finding Nemo – are at risk from ocean acidity, which cripples their sense of smell and leaves them vulnerable to predators.
Callum Roberts, a professor of marine conservation, has outlined the seas’ desperate plight in a new book, Ocean For Life, which claims they have changed more in the past 30 years than in “all of history before”.
He says the oceans have already lost at least 75 per cent of their whales, dolphins, turtles and sharks, and 75 per cent of the world’s coral was killed in one year by warming waters, with all coral likely to be gone by the end of the century because of corrosively acidic water.
He estimates that industrial fishing fleets throw so many hooks into the oceans each day that the lines would wrap around the world 500 times, and the population of species such as tuna has been reduced by up to 95 per cent.
He describes the experience of diving in a “dead zone” caused by fertilisers flowing down rivers into the sea.
“There’s nothing there,” he writes.
“No fish, no organisms alive.” He says the outflow from the Mississippi river creates a 20,000 sq km dead zone every year.
There are also eight giant patches of floating waste plastic which have gathered on oceans inside the planet’s natural whirlpools - three in the Atlantic, four in the Pacific and one in the Indian Ocean.
Professor Roberts suggests the best that can be done to tackle the acidification problem will be to wean society off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
But he has a specific solution to the problem of overfishing – the creation of marine reserves where fishing is banned.
He says that when one was created near the Isle of Arran in 2008 the undersea “desert” became lush and healthy within only two years. A national network of such reserves has been pledged by the Government but not yet been established.