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Oceans away

The Newfoundland government is demanding that Ottawa stand by a fisheries renewal fund it promised as part of the European free trade deal, CETA.

In California, meanwhile, some scientists are questioning whether there'll be anything left to catch in the very near future.

It's a striking bit of juxtaposition, courtesy of our continued neglect to curb not only greenhouse gas emissions, but our use of the oceans as a vast dumping ground.

The New York Times reported on the groundbreaking study this month that analyzed data from hundreds of sources, and concluded that "humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them."

"We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event," said Douglas J. McCauley, one of the authors, and an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The study appeared in the journal Science.

The authors insist it's not too late to reverse the trend.

"We're lucky in many ways," said Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University. "The impacts are accelerating, but they're not so bad we can't reverse them."

According to the Times, the scientists "sought a clearer picture of the oceans' health by pulling together data from an enormous range of sources, from discoveries in the fossil record to statistics on modern container shipping, fish catches and seabed mining."

Other researchers say the work is unprecedented.

As with global climate generally, the study found that humans are having a powerful affect on the health of the oceans.

"Some ocean species are certainly overharvested," says the Times, "but even greater damage results from large-scale habitat loss, which is likely to accelerate as technology advances the human footprint, the scientists reported."

It's a tough pill to swallow, given that it comes with other dire warnings of increased wild weather - something we're already experiencing - and rising sea levels.

And it would be especially troubling if such decreasing levels of biodiversity in any way intersects or interacts with hope for a renewed cod fishery.

In any event, it seems federal representation wasn't the only thing missing from local talks on rationalizing the fishery. This province's industry needs to pay close attention to what's happening in the oceans as a whole.

"If by the end of the century we're not off the business-as-usual curve we are now, I honestly feel there's not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean," said Stephen R. Palumbi, another author of the California study. "But in the meantime, we do have a chance to do what we can. We have a couple decades more than we thought we had, so let's please not waste it."

Reprinted from The Telegram

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