London: A new study has recently revealed that world’s marine species are up to nine times likelier to become extinct than formerly thought. The alarming study by the University of Sheffield, has been said to be the most thorough analysis of marine conservation data yet, comes as campaigners accused the Government of “watering down” plans to protect England’s marine life, the Independent revealed.
Researchers found that up to a quarter of the planet’s well-known marine species, from the Mediterranean monk seal to the Pondicherry shark, are in danger of being wiped out. This overturns the conventional scientific wisdom that marine species are far safer than others, by establishing that the risk was equally high. In each case, between 20 and 25 per cent of species are threatened with extinction
The elevated risk posed to ocean life worldwide emerged as the UK announced plans to create 23 new marine conservation zones (MCZs) covering nearly 11,000 square kilometres along the English coast. But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) received strong criticism for not going further, with campaigners noting that the government had originally drawn up a list of 37 potential sites for its second tranche.
These protect species such as seahorses, coral reefs and oyster beds from threats such as dredging and bottom-trawling, and mark the second tranche of MCZs following 27 announced in 2013. When the team concentrated on those animals and plants, where estimates of extinction risk were the most reliable, the difference between marine and non-marine species disappeared.
Critics said the decision not to go ahead with all 37 sites was all the more disappointing because it comes in the week that the government’s independent advisor, the Natural Capital Committee, warned that the UK’s environment was in serious decline. A Defra spokesman said the 14 sites that didn’t make the final cut had been considered “unsuitable for designation at this time”, adding that they have not been permanently removed from the list of candidates that could be added to the scheme in the future.
While waters around the UK may be in decline, the threat posed to sea life is truly global, said the University of Sheffield researchers. Populations had been expected to shrink in number rather than disappear, they further added.