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Oceans worse off than thought, report says

LONDON -- The world's oceans are degenerating far faster than predicted and marine life is facing extinction due to human impacts, a report compiled by international scientists warned yesterday.

The cumulative impact of "severe individual stresses," ranging from climate warming and seawater acidification to widespread chemical pollution and overfishing, would threaten the marine environment with a catastrophe "unprecedented in human history," according to a panel of international scientists who reviewed recent research at a workshop at Oxford University. They will be presented to the United Nations in New York later this week for discussions on reforming governance of the oceans.

The report warned that entire ecosystems, such as coral reefs, could be lost in a generation. "Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, over-exploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean," it said.

The marine scientists called for a range of urgent measures to cut carbon emissions, reduce overfishing, shut unsustainable fisheries, create protected areas in the seas and cut pollution.

"The findings are shocking," said Alex Rogers, scientific director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, which convened the panel with the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

"The world's leading experts on oceans are surprised by the rate and magnitude of changes we are seeing," said Dan Laffoley, the co-author of the report.

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