Fauna & Flora International welcomes the Census of Marine Life

The Census, coordinated by the Census of Marine Life, a global network of researchers, collated information from over 2,600 scientific papers resulting in the release of the First Census of Marine Life 2010: Highlights of a Decade of Discovery report and the creation of the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) database, the world’s largest open access, and online repository of marine life data.

The Census, an ambitious 10-year study, which looked into the diversity of life in our oceans – and what is happening to it, was carried out by 2,700 scientists, from over 80 nations, during 540 expeditions and cost US$650 million to complete.

The Census made amazing discoveries such as 1,200 new marine species, the existence of a Jurassic shrimp previously thought extinct, a ‘blue highway’ of sea turtles circumnavigating the Pacific Ocean and a bacterial mat the size of Greece covering the sea floor off the coast of Chile.

Not all the news was positive though with the confirmation of severe declines in many marine species. The study showed the variety of ways we are affecting marine life, from over-fishing to ocean acidification.

Understanding the diversity, abundance and threats to the marine environment is crucial to achieving its protection. Despite all the research and discoveries the results may only scratch the surface of what actually exists in our seas. However, it provides an important framework to help us better understand what lies beneath.

One of the crucial ways to help protect marine life is investment in Marine Protected Areas and with currently less than one per cent of the ocean under protection, marine life remains very vulnerable to ever increasing threats.

FFI’s marine work, undertaken with our local partners, occurs in many of the areas featured in the Census and we hope that the increased knowledge and the current focus on the marine environment will gain support from decision makers to ensure better protection of our oceans.

Photo credits: César Herrera