Surveying Damage on World Oceans Day, Experts Say Worst is Yet to Come

Threatened by climate change, pollution, overfishing, and oil spills, the world’s oceans are suffering, scientists warned on Wednesday—the day designated by the United Nations as one to honor the deep blue sea.

From widespread coral bleaching to floundering fish species to garbage stretching across the water’s surface and hundreds of feet down, it’s clear that human activity is taking its toll on the world’s oceans, which cover more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface.

Indeed, dead coral reefs “are perhaps the starkest reminders—like the melting Arctic—that a thickening blanket of greenhouse gases is irrevocably changing the face of the Earth,” Inside Climate News wrote on Wednesday. 

And, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch warned in April, those “ghostly underwater graveyards” are only going to grow.

“There’s even worse news ahead,” Mark Eakin, coordinator of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, told Inside Climate News. “There are a lot of places with similar mortality rates. We’ve got bleaching going on from the east coast of Africa to French Polynesia. Right now, it’s basically covering half the Southern Hemisphere.”

A separate study published Tuesday in the journal Nature found that overfishing and polluted run-off from farms and lawns made corals more vulnerable to above-average temperatures.

“Although the research showed that controlling pollution and overfishing can help corals survive in a warming world,” John Upton reported on the study for Climate Centeral, “the scientists said curbing pollution from fuel burning, farming and deforestation, which is causing water temperatures to rise, would be the best way to protect them in the long run.”

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