Cover story in Science reveals historical overkill of marine Megafauna triggered current ocean crises

Leading marine scientists call for bold measures to restore oceans

While recent reports suggest Stone Age hunters drove dozens of species of huge land creatures to extinction, the cover story of the July 27 edition of Science describes the ecological extinctions of marine megafaunavast populations of whales, manatees, dugongs, monk seals, sea turtles, swordfish, sharks, giant codfish and raysfrom overfishing at a global scale never before realized.

Recognition of what has been lost, however, also shows what could be gained. The scientists claim this revolutionary historical perspective is essential to management because historic data provide a framework for remediation and restoration that is otherwise invisible.

"Comparing the magnitude of the mass ecological extinctions in the ocean to those on land may not be enough," states study co-author Dr. Roger Bradbury of the Australian National University in Canberra Australia. "On the land, as we killed off the giant mammals and destroyed the ancient forests, we replaced them with a new suite of farmed species. In the coastal seas, we took out animals and replaced them with nothing."

"Every marine ecosystem I have ever studied during my entire 30 year career looks unrecognizably different from the way it used to be, and I wanted to know why," says Dr. Jeremy Jackson of Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. Jackson, a renowned marine ecologist, instigated the two-year study of human impacts on oceans over time.

Jackson convened an international team of 19 leading marine researchers at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) in Santa Barbara, California. Drawing on paleoecological, archeological and historical data, the scientists uncovered past evidence of seas teeming with large animals as well as abundances of oysters and shellfish so vast they posed hazards to navigation. The new data also show that historical overkill of thi

Contact: Dana Topousis

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