The Ocean Is Losing Its Breath. Here’s the Global Scope.


In Broadest View Yet of World’s Low Oxygen, Scientists Reveal Dangers and Solutions

In the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold. In coastal water bodies, including estuaries and seas, low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950. Scientists expect oxygen to continue dropping even outside these zones as Earth warms. To halt the decline, the world needs to rein in both climate change and nutrient pollution, an international team of scientists asserted in a new paper published Jan. 4 in Science.

“Oxygen is fundamental to life in the oceans,” said Denise Breitburg, lead author and marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. “The decline in ocean oxygen ranks among the most serious effects of human activities on the Earth’s environment.”

The study came from a team of scientists from GO2NE (Global Ocean Oxygen Network), a new working group created in 2016 by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The review paper is the first to take such a sweeping look at the causes, consequences and solutions to low oxygen worldwide, in both the open ocean and coastal waters. The article highlights the biggest dangers to the ocean and society, and what it will take to keep Earth’s waters healthy and productive.

Map of the world, with low oxygen zones in ocean (blue) and coasts (red)
Low-oxygen zones are spreading around the globe. Red dots mark places on the coast where oxygen has plummeted to 2 milligrams per liter or less, and blue areas mark zones with the same low-oxygen levels in the open ocean. (Credit: GO2NE working group. Data from World Ocean Atlas 2013 and provided by R. J. Diaz)

The Stakes

“Approximately half of the oxygen on Earth comes from the ocean,” said Vladimir Ryabinin, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission that formed the GO2NE group. “However, combined effects of nutrient loading and climate change are greatly increasing the number and size of ‘dead zones’ in the open ocean and coastal waters, where oxygen is too low to support most marine life.”

Dead corals and crab shells
Low oxygen caused the death of these corals and others in Bocas del Toro, Panama. The dead crabs pictured also succumbed to the loss of dissolved oxygen.
(Credit: Arcadio Castillo/Smithsonian)

In areas traditionally called “dead zones,” like those in Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, oxygen plummets to levels so low many animals suffocate and die. As fish avoid these zones, their habitats shrink and they become more vulnerable to predators or fishing. But the problem goes far beyond “dead zones,” the authors point out. Even smaller oxygen declines can stunt growth in animals, hinder reproduction and lead to disease or even death. Low oxygen also can trigger the release of dangerous chemicals such as nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas up to 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and toxic hydrogen sulfide. While some animals can thrive in dead zones, overall biodiversity falls.

Climate change is the key culprit in the open ocean. Warming surface waters make it harder for oxygen to reach the ocean interior. Furthermore, as the ocean as a whole gets warmer, it holds less oxygen. In coastal waters, excess nutrient pollution from land creates algal blooms, which drain oxygen as they die and decompose. In an unfortunate twist, animals also need more oxygen in warmer waters, even as it is disappearing.

People’s livelihoods are also on the line, the scientists reported, especially in developing nations. Smaller, artisanal fisheries may be unable to relocate when low oxygen destroys their harvests or forces fish to move elsewhere. In the Philippines, fish kills in a single town’s aquaculture pens cost more than $10 million. Coral reefs, a key tourism attraction in many countries, also can waste away without enough oxygen.

“It’s a tremendous loss to all the support services that rely on recreation and tourism, hotels and restaurants and taxi drivers and everything else,” said Lisa Levin, a co-author and marine biologist with the University of California, San Diego. “The reverberations of unhealthy ecosystems in the ocean can be extensive.”

Some popular fisheries could benefit, at least in the short term. Nutrient pollution can stimulate production of food for fish. In addition, when fish are forced to crowd to escape low oxygen, they can become easier to catch. But in the long run, this could result in overfishing and damage to the economy.

GO2NE group selfie
Members of the GO2NE working group (Global Ocean Oxygen Network) in Monterey, Calif. Top row, from left: S.W.A. Naqvi, Moriaki Yasuhara, Kirsten Isensee, Véronique Garçon, Marilaure Grégoire, Michael Roman. Middle: Nancy Rabalais, Andreas Oschlies, Ivonne Montes, Denise Breitburg, Dimitri Gutiérrez, Maciej Telszewski, Denis Gilbert, Damodar Shenoy, Grant Pitcher. Bottom: Kenneth Rose, Gil Jacinto, Francisco Chavez, Karin Limburg, Lisa Levin. (Credit: Francisco Chavez)

Winning the War: A Three-Pronged Approach

To keep low oxygen in check, the scientists said the world needs to take on the issue from three angles:

Denise Breitburg samples with net in river
Lead author Denise Breitburg, a marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, is discovering how low oxygen can make life harder for fish and oysters in Chesapeake Bay.
(Credit: Tina Tennessen/SERC)
  • Address the causes: nutrient pollution and climate change. While neither issue is simple or easy, the steps needed to win can benefit people as well as the environment. Better septic systems and sanitation can protect human health and keep pollution out of the water. Cutting fossil fuel emissions not only cuts greenhouse gases and fights climate change, but also slashes dangerous air pollutants like mercury.
  • Protect vulnerable marine life. With some low oxygen unavoidable, it is crucial to protect at-risk fisheries from further stress. According to the GO2NE team, this could mean creating marine protected areas or no-catch zones in areas animals use to escape low oxygen, or switching to fish that are not as threatened by falling oxygen levels.
  • Improve low-oxygen tracking worldwide. Scientists have a decent grasp of how much oxygen the ocean could lose in the future, but they do not know exactly where those low-oxygen zones will be. Enhanced monitoring, especially in developing countries, and numerical models will help pinpoint which places are most at risk and determine the most effective solutions.

“This is a problem we can solve,” Breitburg said. “Halting climate change requires a global effort, but even local actions can help with nutrient-driven oxygen decline.” As proof Breitburg points to the ongoing recovery of Chesapeake Bay, where nitrogen pollution has dropped 24 percent since its peak thanks to better sewage treatment, better farming practices and successful laws like the Clean Air Act. While some low-oxygen zones persist, the area of the Chesapeake with zero oxygen has almost disappeared. “Tackling climate change may seem more daunting,” she added, “but doing it is critical for stemming the decline of oxygen in our oceans, and for nearly every aspect of life on our planet.”

Images are available after publication at the Smithsonian Newsdesk (, and the abstract is available at For a copy of the full paper, images or to speak with the authors, contact Kristen Minogue at (314) 605-4315 or, or John Gibbons at (202) 633-5187 or

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is the leading national research center for environmental issues in the coastal zone. Coastal zones are home to more than 70 percent of the world’s people, and the center’s scientists work to understand the connections between humans and the environment to help create a sustainable future. Its ecologists do research from the center’s Chesapeake Bay headquarters in Edgewater, Md., and in coasts around the world.

The Global Ocean Oxygen Network (GO2NE) is a scientific working group organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Established in 2016, its scientists from around the world are committed to providing a global and multidisciplinary view of deoxygenation, advising policymakers on countering low oxygen and preserving marine resources.

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Oceans suffocating as huge dead zones quadruple since 1950, scientists warn

Areas starved of oxygen in open ocean and by coasts have soared in recent decades, risking dire consequences for marine life and humanity

A fisherman on a beach blanketed with dead sardines in Temuco, Chile. In coastal regions, pollution can cause algal blooms and when the algae decompose oxygen is sucked out of the water.
 A fisherman on a beach in Temuco, Chile that is blanketed with dead sardines, a result of algal blooms that suck oxygen out of the water. Photograph: Felix Marquez/AP

Ocean dead zones with zero oxygen have quadrupled in size since 1950, scientists have warned, while the number of very low oxygen sites near coasts have multiplied tenfold. Most sea creatures cannot survive in these zones and current trends would lead to mass extinction in the long run, risking dire consequences for the hundreds of millions of people who depend on the sea.

Climate change caused by fossil fuel burning is the cause of the large-scale deoxygenation, as warmer waters hold less oxygen. The coastal dead zones result from fertiliser and sewage running off the land and into the seas.

The analysis, published in the journal Science, is the first comprehensive analysis of the areas and states: “Major extinction events in Earth’s history have been associated with warm climates and oxygen-deficient oceans.” Denise Breitburg, at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the US and who led the analysis, said: “Under the current trajectory that is where we would be headed. But the consequences to humans of staying on that trajectory are so dire that it is hard to imagine we would go quite that far down that path.”

“This is a problem we can solve,” Breitburg said. “Halting climate change requires a global effort, but even local actions can help with nutrient-driven oxygen decline.” She pointed to recoveries in Chesapeake Bay in the US and the Thames river in the UK, where better farm and sewage practices led to dead zones disappearing.

However, Prof Robert Diaz at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, who reviewed the new study, said: “Right now, the increasing expansion of coastal dead zones and decline in open ocean oxygen are not priority problems for governments around the world. Unfortunately, it will take severe and persistent mortality of fisheries for the seriousness of low oxygen to be realised.”

The oceans feed more than 500 million people, especially in poorer nations, and provide jobs for 350 million people. But at least 500 dead zones have now been reported near coasts, up from fewer than 50 in 1950. Lack of monitoring in many regions means the true number may be much higher.

The open ocean has natural low oxygen areas, usually off the west coast of continents due to the way the rotation of the Earth affects ocean currents. But these dead zones have expanded dramatically, increasing by millions of square kilometres since 1950, roughly equivalent to the area of the European Union.

Furthermore, the level of oxygen in all ocean waters is falling, with 2% – 77bn tonnes – being lost since 1950. This can reduce growth, impair reproduction and increase disease, the scientists warn. One irony is that warmer waters not only hold less oxygen but also mean marine organisms have to breathe faster, using up oxygen more quickly.

There are also dangerous feedback mechanisms. Microbes that proliferate at very low oxygen levels produce lots of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

In coastal regions, fertiliser, manure and sewage pollution cause algal blooms and when the algae decompose oxygen is sucked out of the water. However, in some places, the algae can lead to more food for fish and increase catches around the dead zones. This may not be sustainable though, said Breitburg: “There is a lot of concern that we are really changing the way these systems function and that the overall resilience of these systems may be reduced.”

The new analysis was produced by an international working group created in 2016 by Unesco’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The commission’s Kirsten Isensee said: “Ocean deoxygenation is taking place all over the world as a result of the human footprint, therefore we also need to address it globally.”

Lucia von Reusner, campaign director of the campaign group, Mighty Earth, which recently exposed a link between the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and large scale meat production, said: “These dead zones will continue to expand unless the major meat companies that dominate our global agricultural system start cleaning up their supply chains to keep pollution out of our waters.”

Diaz said the speed of ocean suffocation already seen was breathtaking: “No other variable of such ecological importance to coastal ecosystems has changed so drastically in such a short period of time from human activities as dissolved oxygen.”

He said the need for urgent action is best summarised by the motto of the American Lung Association: “If you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.”

Sardines congregate at Espiritu Santo, Mexico, on June 13, 2015. (Photo: Alejandro Prieto / Barcroft Imag / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)Sardines congregate at Espiritu Santo, Mexico, on June 13, 2015. (Photo: Alejandro Prieto / Barcroft Imag / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

The recently published Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification report is an eight-year-long study by more than 250 scientists investigating the impact of increasingly acidic oceans on sea life.

The chemistry of oceans has been changed by anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), as the oceans absorb carbon dioxide humans are emitting into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide produces carbonic acid, which lowers the pH of seawater.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

The study is a product of the BIOACID project, which is based in Germany.

The research shows that all sea life will be affected by the increasing acidification. Just one example: The numbers of baby cod that grow into full adulthood could fall anywhere from one-quarter to just one-twelfth of today’s numbers.

Twenty-Five Percent Increase in Ocean Acidity

The BIOACID project shows that since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the pH of the surface waters of Earth’s oceans has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1.

While this may sound like a miniscule amount of change, it is a stunning 26 percent increase in acidity.

Ulf Riebesell from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany is the lead author of the recently released study, and a global authority on the topic of ocean acidification. He explains that various species are affected differently by acidification — and those effects can have a rippling impact.

Riebesell told the BBC, “Warm-water corals are generally more sensitive [to acidification] than cold-water corals. Clams and snails are more sensitive than crustaceans.” He added that “even if an organism isn’t directly harmed by acidification it may be affected indirectly through changes in its habitat or changes in the food web.”

Given that more than one billion people rely on food from warm-water coral reefs alone, humans will obviously be impacted heavily as acidification progresses.

Sea life has been in trouble for a long time, due to overfishing, pollution and ACD impacts.

Global fish stocks are in decline, as 85 percent of them are either over-exploited, depleted, fully exploited or in recovery from exploitation.

Large areas of the seabed in the North Sea and the Mediterranean have long since resembled deserts, and 90 percent of all large fish are already gone from the oceans.

Acidification as a Kill Mechanism

The worst global mass extinction event thus far was the Permian Mass Extinction event that took place 252 million years ago.

That event wiped out more than 95 percent of all life on Earth. It was triggered by a dramatic increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, which was absorbed by the oceans, which subsequently acidified and acted as the primary kill mechanism for the event.

Another recently released study, “Thresholds of Catastrophe in the Earth System,” published in the prestigious journal Science Advances, showed that if humans continue to add CO2 to the atmosphere and oceans, a global mass extinction event could be triggered by 2100.

Many scientists believe we are already in the sixth mass extinction event, primarily triggered by human CO2 emissions. Several peer-reviewed scientific studies agree.

What happens in the sea during a solar eclipse?

On July 20th, 1963, three scientists sat on a research ship 200 miles south of Woods Hole, MA, waiting for something remarkable. They were nearly 4000m above the seafloor, and using sonar, they could ‘see’ a line of creatures resting in the deep. By this time, biologists were beginning to unravel the mystery of this ‘false bottom’–a layer in the ocean that looks the the sea floor on sonar but isn’t–which covered much of the ocean. This false bottom rises in up at night and sinks down during the day. This rising and falling is in fact caused by the largest migration of animal on Earth–everything from fish, shrimp and jellyfish, moving hundreds of meters in unison up and down each day. But how and why these animals rose in fell in the ocean wasn’t clear. As the scientists watched their instruments, the light began to fade. Not from the setting sun, but from something else.

The scientists were trying to answer a question that could be answered literally no other way. Some experts suggested that this massive migration was due to each animal’s own biological rhythm; the same rhythm that causes you to feel jet lag after a long trip. But others thought that the sun itself was driving this massive shift from shallow to deep and back again: as the sun set, animals saw the dimming light and rose to the surface. As the sun rose, they sank again into the deep. How could the scientists test between these two different hypotheses? They can’t exactly alter the sunrise…

Luckily, Earth’s view of the sun is altered once a year thanks to a cosmic twist–when the moon blocks it from view. A solar eclipse on land can be an eerie phenomenon. Nighttime crickets and frogs begin to sing, birds fall silent, even bees return to their hives. But until recently, what happened in the ocean depths was a mystery.

Back on the research ship in 1963, the moon moved into its place in front of the sun, daylight rapidly faded, and the scientists solved the migration mystery: the deep layer of animals began to rise. Bioluminescent creatures started to shine, and nocturnal creatures started a frantic upward thrust. As the world grew darker, they swam upward nearly 80 meters. But this frantic migration didn’t last long. As the moon receded and the sun revealed itself, the massive animal layer did an about-face, scrambling back into the safety of the darkness. One can only imagine the frenzy as millions upon millions of creatures clambered towards the surface and then, just as quickly, rushed back to the deep.

On the boat the scientists could only observe this massive movement with sonar. But it was enough to answer their question. Thanks to the solar eclipse, we now know that animals hiding in the deep are governed in part by the external ebb and flow of light from the sun.

Ancient humans considered eclipses ominous signs. Now, modern humans adopt a more spectator role in this celestial occurrence. There’s even a citizen scientist initiative to understand how creatures on land responds during the upcoming eclipse. But for millions of creatures living in the open ocean, a solar eclipse, at least for a short time, may really spell calamity.

Work cited

RH Backus, RC Clark, AS Wing. (1965) Behaviour of certain marine organisms during the solar eclipse of July 20, 1963. Nature. 4975. pp 989-991

Sea Shepherd Vessel Rammed By Fishing Boat in Panama

A Note from

Captain Paul Watson

         from Captain Paul Watson:
Forty years ago in August 1977, I established the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Today, thanks to supporters like you, we are an international movement. We have hundreds of dedicated volunteers that participate in ground campaigns all over the world, crew our ten ships on sea campaigns, and work to spread awareness about our organization in their local communities.

Our Neptune’s Navy is actively stopping poachers on the land and in the waters of Mexico, Liberia, Gabon, the Baltic, Panama, Galapagos, Australia, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Southern Ocean, and the North Atlantic. Our organization is saving lives and upholding international conservation law. Our important work is only possible because of our supporters – individuals who care about biodiversity in the sea and the protection of our oceans.
I’d like to extend my deepest thanks to you for your generosity in supporting our life-saving efforts. As you know, if the oceans die, we all die. I am thankful that you are helping us save the oceans and the wildlife that call the oceans home.
For the Oceans,

The M/V John Paul DeJoria suffered minor damage while patrolling a marine reserve 

John Paul DeJoria rammedJohn Paul DeJoria rammed by angry fishermenCOIBA, PANAMA – June 29, 2017 – A Sea Shepherd vessel suffered minor damage on Wednesday when it was rammed by a fishing boat while patrolling in the Coiba marine reserve, off the Pacific coast of Panama.

While monitoring and documenting fishing boats engaged in long-line fishing inside the reserve, the anti-poaching group’s cutter, the M/V John Paul DeJoria, was surrounded by five fishing boats at around 3pm.

According to the crew, the fishermen threatened the non-profit marine protection group by throwing items at John Paul DeJoria, while gesturing and shouting aggressively.

Then, the 110-foot Island class patrol boat was rammed by one of the five boats and suffered minor damage.

The Sea Shepherd crew tried to contact a nearby Panamanian Aero naval vessel by radio for assistance but were unable to reach it. The crew stood its ground and refused to be intimidated, and reported the incident and boats to Coiba park rangers.

The entire incident lasted about 60 to 90 minutes and ended when the John Paul DeJoria departed the area to avoid the situation escalating. The Sea Shepherd crew showed total restraint and did not provoke or retaliate in any way.

“It’s high time the Panamanian authorities made this incredibly important marine area a reserve not only by name but also in practice,” said John Paul DeJoria Captain Jessie Treverton. “This area needs to be a zero take zone and properly policed.  Sea Shepherd is offering to provide the M/V John Paul Dejoria, resources, and crew to assist the rangers in their important work.”

Added Sea Shepherd Founder, President and CEO Captain Paul Watson: “Sea Shepherd crews are not intimidated by intimidation, threats of violence and assaults. I am proud of the crew of the John Paul DeJoria for standing strong in the face of these poachers in their defense of the Coiba Island marine reserve.”

Coiba National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site that comprises of 430,825 acres. It is surrounded by one of the largest coral reef system on the Pacific Coast and is home to numerous species of sharks, whales, sea turtle and rays among numerous others. This makes the area a prized spot for tourists and scuba divers, while also attracting poachers and fishermen engaged in illegal fishing activity.

The John Paul DeJoria is currently stationed in the Eastern Tropical Pacific for its shark protection campaign, Operation Treasured Islands.

Operation Treasured Islands
Visit our 
Operation Treasured Islands
site for more information.

Environmentalists urge Astoria to oppose oil terminal

By Katie FrankowiczThe Daily Astorian

Published on July 4, 2017 8:28AM

Environmentalists want the Astoria City Council to oppose an oil-by-train terminal at the Port of Vancouver.


Environmentalists want the Astoria City Council to oppose an oil-by-train terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

Local and regional environmental groups asked the Astoria City Council Monday night to join with other Pacific Northwest cities to oppose an oil terminal they say threatens the health of the Columbia River estuary.

The Tesoro Savage oil-by-rail terminal at Washington’s Port of Vancouver, first announced in 2013, would be the largest oil-by-rail project in North America. Five mile-and-a-half long trains would carry a daily output of 360,000 barrels of crude oil. The oil would be put on oil tankers that would then cross the Columbia River Bar, according to nonprofit environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper.

The project could “dramatically increase” the danger of an oil spill on the Columbia River from trains coming into the terminal and the vessels going downstream, said Dan Serres, the group’s conservation director.

The City Council had opposed a liquefied natural gas and pipeline project in Warrenton in 2015, Serres said. He spoke Monday seeking a similar resolution, this time for the oil-by-rail project.

“That statement (in 2015) resonated statewide,” Serres said. “… It marked this area as being a place where people like to help the river.”

Vancouver, Spokane, Portland and Hood River have already spoken out against the project. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will make the final decision on whether to approve or deny the project, a decision he is expected to make sometime late this year or next year.

Of chief concern to Serres and others opposed to the project are the trains themselves.

“This is a new thing for the United States,” Serres said. “We haven’t moved oil by train in this volume ever before. In 2012, this started to ramp up. In 2013 we started to see trains derail.”

He pointed to an oil train that derailed and caught fire in Mosier, a town in the Columbia River Gorge, last year. That derailment and the small oil spill in the river that resulted was a “taste” of what could happen elsewhere, he said.

Jan Mitchell, who serves on the Astoria Planning Commission, urged the council to join the other cities in opposing the project.

“Anything that happens to the river upstream, happens to us,” she said.

City councilors asked questions and expressed concern over the safety issues, but Councilor Bruce Jones, a retired U.S. Coast Guard commander, pointed out that refined petroleum products move up and down the river at least five days a week, if not on a daily basis.

There are products the Pacific Northwest requires for its economy and industry to function, he said. If these products weren’t being moved on the river, they would be in trucks on the highways.

“I think it’s a complex issue,” he said. “Petroleum products moving on the river, it’s easy to say this is real black and white, it’s bad. But then again compared to the alternatives, it moves safely on the river now.”

The tankers that carry petroleum products or other hazardous chemicals must pass stringent regulations. When Jones was captain of the port, he said he was more worried about an oil spill from a grain ship than from a petroleum tanker. They carry massive amounts of fuel and are not maintained to the same standards required of the petroleum tankers.

“The grain business, they operate on very small margins,” Jones said, “… so some of those grain ships sitting out there are real pieces of work.”

The river is a highway, Jones said. “It’s a place of beauty and natural resources and fish and sea lions and it’s also a highway and it has been ever since before the first white people came here. It was a commercial highway.”

He said he respects the work Columbia Riverkeeper does to protect the environmental health of the river. He wants to look closely at the project’s environmental impact statement, current safety regulations related to oil tankers, and talk to the bar pilots who would be tasked with guiding these tankers back and forth across the dangerous system of sandbars at the Columbia River’s mouth before giving his approval to a resolution opposing the oil-by-rail terminal project.

City staff will work with Serres to craft a resolution to bring before the City Council in August.

A quick update on oceans, oxygen, and fish habitat


Not only does warm water hold less dissolved oxygen than cool water, it also tends to divide into layers that don’t readily mix. According to one recent study, the ocean has been losing oxygen since the mid-1980s, likely because rising temperatures have impeded circulation

 “When oxygen goes way down, it’s effectively habitat loss,” Levin says. “They might move north, they might move upslope into shallower water.” Species that can’t easily relocate, like muck-dwelling invertebrates, may perish.

The cruel corollary to deoxygenation is that warmer waters also drive up animals’ metabolic rates, forcing them to use more oxygen to breathe. As Curtis Deutsch,  a chemical oceanographer at the University of Washington, puts it, “They need more, at the same time that they have less.”

Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies


 “The factor that best explained variation in extinction risk was the level of future climate change. The future global extinction risk from climate change is predicted not only to increase but to accelerate as global temperatures rise (regression coefficient = 0.53; CIs, 0.46 and 0.61) (Fig. 2).”

Mark C. Urban

Accelerating extinction risk from climate change.

SCIENCE 1 MAY 2015 • VOL 348 ISSUE 6234


“Between 1C and 2C increases in global mean temperatures most species, ecosystems and landscapes will be impacted and adaptive capacity will become limited.”

Rik Leemans and Bas Eickhout. Another reason for concern: regional and global impacts on ecosystems for different levels of climate change. Global Environmental Change 14 (2004) 219-228

Urge your members of Congress to end the U.S. commercial shark fin trade!

Sharks are amazing ocean predators, and they’re some of the most powerful creatures in the sea. But even they can’t survive the brutal practice of shark finning.

Shark finning is a gruesome practice. It involves catching sharks, hacking off their fins and tails – usually while they are still alive – and throwing them back in the water. Unable to swim, the sharks then bleed to death, starve or drown. This brutal killing of our oceans’ apex predators must stop!

Urge your members of Congress to end the U.S. commercial fin trade at the national level!

Although shark finning is already illegal in U.S. waters and the possession and sale of shark fins is banned in eleven states and three territories, huge quantities of fins are still imported to this country every year. In fact, globally, as many as 73 million sharks are killed for their fins each year.


Jim, one in four species of sharks is in danger of extinction. The U.S. must take a leading role in the fight to stop the slaughter by banning the trade of shark fins at the national level and denying shark finners entrance to the U.S. market.

Ask your senators and representatives to support the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017 and protect sharks on the brink of extinction.

Thank you for your continued commitment to standing with wildlife and fighting to protect our world’s most vulnerable species.


by Derrick Jensen / Deep Green Resistance

I was asked to speak about the state of the planet, and to do it in under five minutes. I can do it in three.

The world is being murdered, flayed alive, poisoned, gutted, dismembered.

Every biological indicator is going the wrong direction.

And it’s getting worse by the day.

Two hundred species were driven extinct today, and they were my brothers and sisters. Two hundred will go extinct tomorrow. And the day after.

There are stolid scientists who are saying the oceans could be devoid of fish in less than 35 years.

Imagine that: the murder of the oceans on this water planet.

The problems are not new. This culture has been killing the planet for 6000 to 10000 years. When we think of Iraq, is the first thing we think of cedar forests so thick the sunlight never reached the ground? That’s how it was, prior to this culture. The first written myth of this culture is Gilgamesh deforesting the hills and valleys of Iraq to make a great city. The Arabian peninsula was heavily forested. The forests of North Africa were cut to make the Egyptian and Phoenician navies. Greece was heavily forested.

Forests precede us and deserts dog our heels.

And not every culture has destroyed their landbases. The Chumash lived here for at least 13000 years, and when the Europeans arrived here, the place was an ecological paradise. Likewise where I live the Tolowa lived there for at least 12500 years, and likewise when the Europeans arrived the place was a paradise. No longer.

A dear doctor friend of mine always says that the first step toward proper treatment is diagnosis. If we refuse to diagnose the problems our actions will never resolve them.

The problems are not soluble by tweaking processes. The problems are inherent in how we perceive the world, how we interact with the world, what we value, and they are functional and inherent to this culture’s economy. What is GNP? It’s a measure of how quickly the living planet is turned into dead products. Trees into two-by-fours, living rivers into kilowatts, schools of fish into fish sticks.

This is not cognitively challenging. We would all understand this if we weren’t from early childhood inculcated into believing that the economy is more important than life, if we weren’t taught that what humans create has meaning and what the world creates does not, that humans have sentience and meaningful lives, and nonhumans and natural communities do not.

But what if this is all wrong? What if life is not a game of monopoly or risk where the point is to run the board, but rather life is a symphony, where the point is to learn your proper role, and play it at the proper time? The point is not for violin players to kill the oboe players and convert them into cash, but rather to make beautiful music together.

The only measure by which we will be judged by those humans and nonhumans who come after ­presuming any remain­ will be the health of the earth. They’re going to care about whether the earth can support life.

At this point in the murder of the planet, there is I think really only one question worth asking: is the world a better place because you were born, and because of your life and because of what you do? That is very possible to do. Think about it: how did the world get to be so glorious and beautiful and fecund in the first place? By everyone living and dying. Salmon make forests better places by living and dying. So do redwood trees and lampreys and banana slugs. That’s how life works. So, the question that the world needs for us to live is: especially given that this culture is killing the planet, how do we individually and collectively make the world a better place by our lives and deaths. By our actions. The planet, not the culture. And that is as true for any organization or corporation as it is for any of us individually. How do we make the real, physical still fecund world that is our only home, better, for hammerhead sharks, for coho salmon, for giant anteaters, for Mekong catfish, Amani flatwings, cayman islands ghost orchids, and orangutans, and the larger communities they call home.

Watch Derrick Jensen reading this essay:

Ocean ‘conveyor belt’ brings billions of plastic particles into Arctic waters

The seafloor has become ‘the great reservoir of plastic debris’

By Laura Wright, CBC News <> Posted: Apr 21, 2017 2:06 PM ET Last Updated: Apr 21, 2017 3:11 PM ET

An ocean current is acting as a kind of conveyor belt leading billions of bits of plastic to a dead end in the Arctic, according to new research published in the journal Science Advances.

A team of scientists, led by Andres Cozar from the University of Cadiz in Spain, found hundreds of thousands of tiny pieces of plastic per square kilometre in parts of the Barents and Greenland seas.

Past research has found that there are more than five trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans. About three per cent (or several billion bits) of it ends up in the Arctic.

For this research, Cozar and his team used 17,000 satellite buoys to track the movement of the plastic floating on the surface of the ocean. They were able to see that plastic is carried to the Arctic along an ocean current known as thermohaline circulation, which Cozar refers to as a ‘conveyor belt.’

The plastic comes from as far away as the eastern coast of North America and the northwestern coast of Europe.

Once the plastic gets to the Arctic, it eventually sinks.

Cozar said the combination of the ice sheets and the land masses work as a barrier, preventing the plastic from floating any further.

“The seafloor is the final destination of the floating plastic … it’s the great reservoir of plastic debris,” said Cozar.

Cozar said it would take a few decades for the plastic in the Arctic to form an accumulation zone like the one in the Pacific.

No boundaries in the water

Low populations in the Arctic means that the plastic debris is not local.

“The present data demonstrate that high concentrations of plastic debris extend up to remote Arctic waters, emphasizing the global scale of marine plastic pollution and the role that global oceanic circulation patterns play in the redistribution of these persistent pollutants,” wrote Cozar, the lead author of the paper.

Rachel Obbard, assistant research professor at the Thayer School of Engineering at the University of Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H., found plastics in Arctic ice cores in 2009.

She said that as the oceans warm and the sea ice decreases, these plastic particles will likely get dispersed further and further. Warmer oceans likely mean new shipping routes will open up, which could lead to an increase of plastic in the Arctic, she added.

“It’s a problem that’s going to get worse as the Arctic Ocean becomes more water and less ice,” said Obbard.

Local concerns

Cozar said this is a global problem — even the most environmentally conscious person living in the Arctic can’t escape pollution coming across the globe.

“We think of these polar regions as these very distant, very pristine environments,” said Jennifer Provencher, a post-doctoral researcher at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. “And increasingly we know that that’s just not true.”

“Most humans live in temperate regions and towards equatorial regions, and yet our pollution is not staying in those kind of geographical bounds — they’re moving beyond into these remote regions.”

The plastic pollution can have a very real impact on food security, said Provencher.

Because of currents, the Canadian Arctic has less plastic than other parts of the Arctic. But migratory birds like fulmars, for example, are known to ingest plastic <> floating in the North Atlantic where they spend their winters.

“When they’re flying back into the Canadian Arctic each spring, they’re bringing that plastic burden with them,” said Provencher.

And the plastic is ingested right up the food chain, which leads to questions about food security and traditional rights, especially in areas where subsistence or traditional hunting is common practice.

Obbard said she was contacted by a teacher in Ulukhaktok, N.W.T., who said people in the remote Arctic community cut ice from the sea and then melt it for drinking water.

“And they have seen microplastics in that ice,” she said.

Efforts to stem the plastic tide are happening, such as the ban on micro-beads in cosmetics, and continual pushes to ban single-use plastic bags.

And Cozar said it’s crucial that waste is managed at the source.

“Because once plastic enters the ocean, its destination and impacts are uncontrollable,” he said.