Save life in our oceans from mass extinction, scientists urge - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 3 October

Save life in our oceans from mass extinction, scientists urge

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 3 October

Darren Evans

A range of factors including climate change, overfishing and pollution is causing a global crisis that is endangering sea life, according to a review from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO).

In fact, IPSO claims that the "unprecedented" level of acidity in the seas is creating the right conditions for mass extinction.

The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but the more it takes in, the more acidic it becomes. With carbon dioxide emissions from human activity such as burning fossil fuels increasing, acidity levels are at their highest for 300 million years.

The IPSO report says: "We have been taking the ocean for granted. It has been shielding us from the worst effects of accelerating climate change by absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"While terrestrial temperature increases may be experiencing a pause, the ocean continues to warm regardless. For the most part, however, the public and policymakers are failing to recognise – or choosing to ignore – the severity of the situation."

Coral reefs in particular are suffering from the high temperatures and acidification, at the same time as they are being weakened by bad fishing practices, pollution and toxic algae.

There are also growing numbers of oceanic "dead zones" – areas in which oxygen has been depleted by human activities including fertiliser run-off, where marine life has either died or been forced to leave.

The report calls on world governments to halt the increase of CO2 emissions and urges better management of fisheries. It wants countries to reach an agreement on sustainable fishing, to be policed by a new global enforcement agency.

Alex Rogers, professor of conservation biology at the University of Oxford and scientific director of IPSO, urged governments to "get a grip" on what was happening to the seas. "The health of the ocean is spiralling downwards far more rapidly than we had thought," he said.

"We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated. The situation should be of the gravest concern to everyone since
everyone will be affected by changes in the ability of the ocean to support life on Earth."


1.) Why is it important to protect our oceans?
2.) Can you think of any other environmental problems that have been created by human beings?
3.) In your opinion, who is responsible for tackling threats to the environment?
4.) What could you do at home or at school to be more environmentally friendly?

Related resources

Oceans and ecosystems

  • A scheme of work, including resources, to help your pupils understand the threats to marine ecosystems and how to sustainably manage the oceans.

Water world

  • A series of lessons and activities focusing on where water is found, sustainable management and pollution.

Marine educators toolkit

  • With a focus on sharks, skates and rays and their role within the environment, this toolkit is packed with teaching resources, games, activities and puzzles.

Under the sea

  • Introduce your early years classes to marine life with this colourful PowerPoint.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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In the news archive index