BBC

London

The health of the world’s oceans is deteriorating even faster than had previously been thought, a report says.

A review from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), warns that the oceans are facing multiple threats. They are being heated by climate change, turned slowly less alkaline by absorbing CO2, and suffering from overfishing and pollution.

The report warns that dead zones formed by fertiliser run-off are a problem. It says conditions are ripe for the sort of mass extinction event that has afflicted the oceans in the past. It says: “We have been taking the ocean for granted. It has been shielding us from the worst effects of accelerating climate change by absorbing excess CO2 from the atmosphere.

“Whilst terrestrial temperature increases may be experiencing a pause, the ocean continues to warm regardless. For the most part, however, the public and policymakers are failing to recognise - or choosing to ignore - the severity of the situation.” It says the cocktail of threats facing the ocean is more powerful than the individual problems themselves. Coral reefs, for instance, are suffering from the higher temperatures and the effects of acidification whilst also being weakened by bad fishing practices, pollution, siltation and toxic algal blooms.

IPSO, funded by charitable foundations, is publishing a set of five papers based on workshops in 2011 and 2012 in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN’s) World Commission on Protected Areas.

The reports call for world governments to halt CO2 increase at 450ppm. Any higher, they say, will cause massive acidification later in the century as the CO2 is absorbed into the sea. It urges much more focused fisheries management, and a priority list for tackling the key groups of chemicals that cause most harm.