WWF: Fifty percent decline in key marine species spells big trouble for oceans | WWF-Canada

WWF: Fifty percent decline in key marine species spells big trouble for oceans

Posted on 16 September 2015
Destructive fishing and climate change are damaging our world’s oceans.
© Cat Holloway / WWF
Toronto, Sept. 16, 2015 – Overexploitation of fish critical to food security around the world is pushing many marine species into serious decline with some on the verge of collapse, according to a new edition of a WWF report released today. 

WWF’s Living Blue Planet Report finds that the ocean has lost about 50% of its vertebrate populations such as sharks and turtles in under fifty years, but concludes that solutions do exist to turn the tide.

“We ask a lot of our oceans. Despite their seemingly healthy appearance, the stresses we put on marine animals and coastal regions are taking a huge toll. In many cases, these negative impacts stem from human activity that we can control – or avoid all together,” said David Miller, WWF-Canada’s President and CEO. “Vulnerable marine ecosystems are being jeopardized by overfishing, habitat degradation, marine pollution and warming sea temperatures. On top of this, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is having a devastating impact on sustainably managed fisheries around the world.”

In response to alarming statistics raised in WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014, this special report studies how overfishing, damage to habitat and climate change are dramatically affecting marine biodiversity. 

The updated study of marine mammals, birds, reptiles and fish populations shows that populations have been reduced on average by half globally in the last forty years, with some species essential to commercial fishing including tunas, mackerels and bonitos declining by close to 75 percent. While increases are being seen in some Canadian and other northern fisheries, the findings still spell trouble for all nations due to food and livelihood security issues.   

“The collapse of Newfoundland’s northern cod fishery is a sobering reminder of how communities are impacted when resources are overexploited. For centuries, the cod stocks in this region seemed inexhaustible. But when the fishery collapsed in 1992, 40,000 people lost their jobs. Today the cod stock is showing signs of recovery, but still remains below pre-collapse levels,” said Miller.  

The study also finds that climate change is causing the ocean to change more rapidly than at any other point in millions of years. Rising temperatures and increasing acidity levels caused by carbon dioxide aggravate the negative impacts of overfishing and other major threats including habitat degradation and pollution. 

According to the report, decisions taken at the UN climate conference in Paris will directly impact the future of ocean health. Canada must make strong commitments to reduce carbon emissions to help stop levels of warming and acidification that are proving catastrophic to the ocean systems all people depend on. 

“The health of our oceans has a direct and lasting impact on Canada’s 7,000 coastal communities, our overall well-being, our national economy and the planet. Our jobs and our communities depend on that life. And our lives – the air we breathe, a stable climate – depend on the ocean too. Keeping the life in our oceans healthy and thriving isn’t just the right thing to do.  It’s what we have to do,” said David Miller. 


Notes to editors

Download the full version of the Living Blue Planet Report at

Images associated with the report found at

Graphs and illustrations that appear in the report are available on request 

About the Living Blue Planet Report 

The Living Blue Planet Report is the third product of WWF’s global ocean campaign. The report features a new analysis of the marine Living Planet Index from WWF’s popular Living Planet Report 2014. Using this new analysis applying the Living Planet Index, the Living Blue Planet Report demonstrates the sharp decline in marine biodiversity as a result of pressures that include overfishing, coastal development and climate change. The trends related to fish resources and marine habitat paint a picture of decline that threatens the survival of wild species and communities around the world that depend on healthy ocean ecosystems. The report also identifies the main steps the world needs to take to rebuild the breaking ocean. 

WWF’s global ocean campaign: Sustain Our Seas 
WWF’s global ocean campaign, Sustain Our Seas, is building support for ocean conservation by putting the ocean at the heart of the sustainable development agenda. WWF is working to persuade decision-makers that marine conservation is essential to all, with priority relevance for food security and livelihoods. By influencing decisions at the top political and institutional levels, and generating grassroots engagement, Sustain Our Seas is determined to have clear, ambitious targets and indicators aimed at conserving marine and coastal habitats included as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and real momentum to implement commitments. The campaign will help to mainstream ocean conservation and increase WWF’s influence across the world.

For more information 
Chris Chaplin, Senior Communications Specialist, WWF-Canada, cchaplin@wwfcanada.org, +1 416 669 9155. 
Destructive fishing and climate change are damaging our world’s oceans.
© Cat Holloway / WWF Enlarge
One of the most serious threats facing marine species, like loggerhead turtles, is their accidental catch in commercial fisheries, called “bycatch.”
© Michael Gunther / WWF Enlarge
Researchers observe a northern bottlenose whale in the Gully Marine Protected Area.
© © Hilary Moors-Murphy Enlarge
Humpback whale in Great Bear Sea
© Andrew S. Wright / WWf-Canada Enlarge