A new study led by UC Santa Barbara professor Douglas McCauley is bad news for the world's oceans: we're on the brink of never-before-seen destruction of the ocean's marine life.

Humans have caused the extinction of some 500 species on land in the past 500 years, but so far there have only been 15 species in the ocean that went extinct as a direct result of human behavior. However, a new study shows that many species of marine life are heading towards extinction. A paper based on their findings was published today, January 16, in the journal Science.

Factory farms in the ocean and feed lots encourage fish such as shrimp and tuna to consume far past their natural limit, devastating the ecosystem. Waste from aquatic factory farms spills directly into the ocean. These factory farms are what has allowed Americans to eat 25 percent more fish a year than we did 20 years ago.

Pollution spilloff into the ocean also plays a big part in harming marine life. Plastic debris can be deadly to dolphins, whales and porpoises. Some whales also die after colliding with ships. Humans are also drilling the ocean for oil with increased fervor. Recently, President Obama re-opened the Eastern seaboard to offshore oil drilling.

"Stakes for seafloor mining claims are being pursued with gold-rush-like fervor, and 300-ton ocean mining machines and 750-foot fishing boats are now rolling off the assembly line to do this work," said Steve Palumbi, one of the co-authors of the paper.

To stave off the extinction of marine life, the researchers suggested limiting the industrialization of the ocean, cutting back on carbon emissions as soon as possible, and allowing the ocean time to recover.

"If by the end of the century we're not off the business-as-usual curve we are now, I honestly feel there's not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean. But in the meantime, we do have a chance to do what we can. We have a couple decades more than we thought we had, so let's please not waste it," Palumbi said.

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