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How many fish in the sea? Census of Marine Life launches first report

An estimated 5,000 previously unknown ocean fish species and hundreds of thousands of other marine life forms are yet to be discovered, according to scientists engaged in a massive global scientific collaboration to identify and catalog life in the oceans.

The new marine fish species, being identified at an average rate of 160 per year (roughly three new species per week since year 2000), are being catalogued and mapped by the Census of Marine Life (CoML), an unprecedented cooperative initiative involving leading marine scientists from every world region. The Census issued its first report after three years of work Oct. 23 at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

More than 300 scientists from 53 countries are at work on the Census, designed to assess the diversity, distribution and abundance of ocean life and explain how it changes over time. The scientists, their institutions and government agencies are pooling their findings to create a comprehensive and authoritative portrait of life in the oceans today, yesterday and tomorrow.

Over 15,300 species of marine fish are now included in the Census database with another 2,000 V 3,000 expected by the time of the final Census report in 2010. CoML experts expect the final count of marine fish species to total roughly 20,000.

An average of 1,700 other animals and numerous marine plants are also being catalogued each year. CoML scientists estimate that 210,000 marine life forms of all types are currently known to science, but the total in existence could be up to 10 times that number.

The first Census report - The Unknown Ocean: Baseline Report for the Census of Marine Life - reviews the state of knowledge of ocean biodiversity and how it has advanced during the first three years of the ambitious 10-year, $1 billion Census initiative. Following the reports launch, leading scientists involved in the project will meet to map out research priorities for the
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Contact: Terry Collins
collins1@sympatico.ca
416-538-8712
Census of Marine Life
23-Oct-2003


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