A TOP conservationist is calling for a ban on fishing in a third of the world’s seas.
Professor Callum Roberts of York University has issued a stark warning that our oceans are on the brink of a new mass extinction that could wipe out thousands of species by the end of the century.
As one of the world’s leading marine conservation biologists, Professor Robert’s work focuses on the impact of humans on marine life.
He made the comments ahead of a lecture and prize giving event he is due to attend at St Andrews University next week.
He also strongly critisised plans for Scotland’s new marine protected areas, saying they had “veered wildly off course” and were “worse than useless”.
He said: “It is not geological or extra-terrestrial cataclysm that is to blame, it is us.
“The best science we have suggests we need to protect a third of the sea from fishing to make enough of a difference to save species, boost fisheries in surrounding grounds and keep oceans functioning well.”
He added: “Carbon dioxide is turning the oceans more acidic, with potentially devastating consequences for every creature that makes a chalky shell or skeleton, like corals, prawns, crabs and snails, and many others too.
“Ocean acidification in the geological past caused mass extinctions and shut down the growth of coral reefs, the most diverse ecosystems in the sea.
“Today it is happening more quickly, and if left unchecked its harmful consequences will last for tens of thousands of years.”
Calling for a “new deal for life in the sea”, Professor Roberts said: “Scotland began well in the process of protecting its marine nature by creating 30 new marine protected areas in 2014,”
“But it has veered wildly off course with management proposals that would allow destructive fishing methods like bottom trawling and dredging to continue over the vast majority of their area.
“Marine protected areas that fail to protect life within them are worse than useless, because they give the illusion of protection where none is given.
“Real protected areas need real protection – there is no free lunch.”
Professor Roberts will be making his call for international action at a free public lecture in St Andrews at 6pm on 22nd April.
He is due to deliver the St Andrews Prize for the Environment the following day. The winner will receive a £67,000 prize for finding innovative solutions to environmental challenges.
Two runners up will each receive prizes of £17,000.