Only 4% of untouched ocean left: global report on oceans shows devastating damage

15th February 2008
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The North sea is amongst the worst affected seas in the world a global investigation into the impact of human activities on marine ecosystems revealed yesterday.

Fishing, climate change, pollution and shipping have left its mark on all but 4 per cent of the world’s seas. The survey, published in Science, divided the waters into one kilometre squared sections and tested them for 17 different human activities. The resulting map is shocking.

“The big picture looks much worse than I imagine most people expected. It was certainly a surprise to me." said Ben Halpern, assistant research scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who led the research.

Key results from the report include:

40% The amount of the ocean heavily affected

0.5% (850,000 square miles) very heavily affected

4% Area left without human impact

50% Amount of coral reefs heavily damaged

One of the worst affected areas in the world is the North sea which suffers form chronic over-fishing.

"This project allows us to finally start to see the big picture of how humans are affecting the oceans...My hope is that our results serve as a wake-up call to better manage and protect our oceans rather than a reason to give up." said Ben Halpern

This article first appeared in the Ecologist February 2008