NEW YORK, New York, 22 May 2012 (ENS) – Oceans cover about 72 percent of Earth's surface area and there are an estimated 250,000 marine species. "Yet, despite its importance, marine biodiversity has not fared well at human hands," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in his message to mark the International Day for Biological Diversity.
More than half of global fisheries are exhausted and a further third depleted, warned the secretary-general. Between 30 and 35 percent of critical marine environments, such as seagrasses, mangroves and coral reefs, have been destroyed.
Plastic debris continues to kill marine life, and polluted runoff from land-based activities is deadening vast areas of coastal waters, leaving these dead zones without oxygen.
"Added to all of this," said Ban, "increased burning of fossil fuels is affecting the global climate, making the sea surface warmer, causing sea level to rise and increasing ocean acidity, with consequences we are only beginning to comprehend."
The UN General Assembly proclaimed May 22 as the International Day for Biological Diversity, to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The theme for this year's observance is marine diversity.
Commercial fisheries are the most serious threat facing the world's seabirds, finds the nonprofit advocacy organization BirdLife International, which says fisheries are responsible for the incidental deaths of hundreds of thousands of seabirds each year. Longliners, trawlers, and gillnetters are all to blame.
"For several species of albatross, this level of mortality is unsustainable and they are now perilously close to extinction," says BirdLife. "In addition, the negative impact of overfishing on seabirds continues to increase as fisheries target ever smaller fish."
The IUCN Red List Index for birds shows that nearly half of seabird species are known or suspected to be experiencing population declines. Open ocean bird species are faring particularly badly. Of the 346 known seabird species, 97 species are globally threatened, while 17 are listed as Critically Endangered.
Secretary-general Ban says that on land nearly 15 percent of surface area is under some kind of protection, but at sea, "little more than one percent of marine environments are protected." […]