photo by Alfiero Brisotto (Flickr Creative Commons)

The Census of Marine Life is a 10-year worldwide project conducted by a network of researchers and coordinated in part by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

The aim of the census – the first global study of its kind – is to ‘explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans’.

From an article in the Telegraph:

They hope that by creating the first catalogue of the world’s oceans we can begin to understand the great ecological questions about habitat loss, pollution, overfishing and all the other man-made plagues that are being visited on the sea. The truth is that at present, much of what pass for scientific “facts” about the sea and what lives in it are still based on guesswork.

Major concerns highlighted by the census include a decline in the density of large fish populations in tropical waters since the 1960s – a 50% drop for some of the largest fish and a whopping 90% reduction in certain shark species.

The Mediterranean, site of the recent Spanish jellyfish invasion, has been invaded by some 600 new species, most from the Dead Sea via the Suez Canal. And though the census named the Med as one of the top 5 areas for marine biodiversity, it is also one of the most threatened, due to it being an enclosed sea and with densely populated coastlines.

Pollution, overfishing and temperature change are all considered threats to the ecological balance of the Mediterranean Sea.

From an article in the Guardian:

Enclosed seas have the risk that, when you impact it and throw chemicals or other garbage into it, it will not go away so easily as it will from the open ocean.

– Patricia Miloslavich, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Venezuela, co-senior scientist of the census

For more on the story see this slideshow from the Guardian:

Census of the deep maps the world’s sea creatures

Also check out the below video report from ITN and the Telegraph.

Additional resources:

Census of Marine Life