Unprecedented Ocean Extinction

09/16/2016 07:44 pm ET | Updated Nov 28, 2016

Humans are driving an unprecedented extinction of sea life.

A study this week from Stanford University found that humans are killing off great white sharks, fin whales, and bluefin tunas like never before compared to the previous five mass extinctions.

There is nothing like this in any fossil records. In the past, smaller species were lost not bigger ones.

The present Sixth Great Extinction is decimating everything in the oceans. My colleagues predict it will take millions of years for the oceans to recover with a rich array of biodiversity that currently exists on the planet.

This is an ecological disaster of epic proportion never experienced since the dawning of sexually reproduced organisms 1.1 billion years ago.

My latest book,“Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans,” documents the rampant overfishing and collapse of nature. Deep sea trawling is so damaging that the physical destruction of 3,000-year-old seamount cold corals and seabeds is 150 times greater than clear-cutting forests on the land, annually.

I calculated that each year fisheries and poachers kill the equivalent volume of sea life to fill 122 Empire State Buildings (at 103 stories with a roof height of 1,250 feet) or one building every 2.9 days!

The oceans are supercharged with 300 zeta joules of energy from burning subsidized, climate altering fossil fuels. Since 1997, 150 of those 300 zeta joules have accumulated to the equivalent energy of one Hiroshima-style atomic bomb detonating every second for 75 consecutive years.

As a result, global warming in the oceans is happening 1.5 to 5 times as fast as anything witnessed on land.

Last week a study examined every major marine ecosystem encompassing life from microbes to whales and the deep oceans. Jellyfish, sea turtles, seabirds, fish stocks and phytoplankton – the basis of the entire marine web of food – are shifting toward the cooler respective poles by up to 10 degrees latitude. This is unprecedented.

A 2011 marine heat wave collapsed kelp forests in the Indian Ocean along a 600-mile stretch of Western Australia. It is an unprecedented die-off with no sign of recovery whatsoever. Coral reef bleaching from a record hot 2016 El Nino caused unprecedented death along the northern Great Barrier Reef.

It is not just the rising temperatures reeking havoc with all marine life and coral reefs. Earlier this year, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers discovered that 53 percent of pteropods, or free-swimming tiny sea snails, sampled off the U.S. West Coast had severely dissolved shells.

The oceans have increased in acidity faster than the previous 300 million years from absorbing rising fossil fuel-released carbon dioxide. As the phytoplankton absorbs the rising levels of carbon dioxide, they releases carbonic acid. The snail shells, like all shellfish and coral reefs, are made of calcium carbonate, which melts in an acidic ocean.

The only ways to slow this brutal destruction of sea life is to place at least 80% of the oceans into marine protected no-take zones and actively patrol them. Poachers and all perpetrators must be penalized with stiff fines and long incarceration sentences.

There’s only one way the human race can survive to mid century. We must save nature – our life support system – now.

In order to achieve this historic goal we must source 80 percent of all energy from renewables i.e. solar, wind, tidal power by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. That will entail a World War III effort: Mobilizing industry, employing millions of people and deploying that technology rapidly.

It is the race to save our planet.

Photo credit: Naio Halter
The Earth Doctor and Jason Halter strategizing on their upcoming books. Beverly Hills, Calif.

Earth Doctor Reese Halter’s upcoming book is “The Anthropocene – Age of Climate Instability.”

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