Shark marine environment Sebastien Filion/Stuart Cove's/Flickr

Death and Hope on the High Seas

Given the many ways human activity threatens marine life, it is easy – perhaps even rational – to be pessimistic. Yet this year could mark the beginning of a more robust approach to safeguarding ocean ecosystems.

HALIFAX, CANADA – Sharks and their cousins, the rays, predate the dinosaurs. They survived the catastrophic mass extinction that finished off Tyrannosaurus Rex and all the rest, as well as the Permian-Triassic extinction that wiped out around 96% of marine species. Even the more recently evolved shark lineages, such as the hammerheads, have been around for more than 30 million years.

Yet in just a few decades, a quarter of all sharks and rays have become threatened with extinction. This is our fault – and it is our responsibility to fix it.

Shark and ray populations are not alone. Many other components of marine biodiversity – especially corals, marine mammals, seabirds, and turtles – are also struggling to withstand human pressures. As a result, marine ecosystems are at risk of unraveling and becoming less stable and less productive.

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