A global alliance of scientists and explorers has begun a race against time to find at least 100,000 new marine species in the next decade before overfishing and global warming drive entire populations to extinction.
The initiative, called Ocean Census, is spearheaded by The Nippon Foundation and UK marine research institute, Nekton.
“We are in a race against time. We have global warming, the ocean is losing oxygen, it’s acidifying and as a result, we are losing species. If that process continues then we will face another major extinction in the ocean and we will lose great swathes of the ‘tree of life’ essentially,” warned Ocean Census science director, Professor Alex Rogers.
The Ocean Census will be the largest programme in history to discover new marine life, embarking on dozens of expeditions across the global ocean.
One of its goals is to lay the foundation for a diverse and inclusive scientific partnership that spans the globe and creates a lasting legacy.
The UN agrees to a ‘once-in-a-generation’ treaty to protect biodiversity in oceans
For the first time, United Nations members have agreed on a unified treaty to protect biodiversity on the high seas, a move aimed at countering threats to marine biodiversity.
“The ship has reached the shore,” conference chairwoman Rena Lee announced at UN headquarters in New York – marking the possible end to 15 years of negations.
The treaty aims to protect the high seas, which begin at a maximum of 200 nautical miles, or 370 kilometres, from the coastline and are not under the jurisdiction of any state.
Those waters, which represent more than 60% of oceans, have long been ignored in environmental regulations. And only around 1% of the high seas are currently subject to conservation measures.
Once enacted, the new agreement will create a new body to manage the conservation of ocean life and establish marine protected areas on the high seas. Experts say this is critical to achieving the UN Biodiversity Conference’s recent pledge to protect 30% of the planet’s waters, as well as its land, for conservation.