Washington: The collapse of wildlife on land due to human activity is about to recur in the sea in the next 100 years, a consortium of scientists has found.
According to the researchers, wildlife in the oceans is still as healthy as it was on the land hundreds of thousands of years ago.
However, that may be about to change as the next 100 years promise to present major challenges to marine life.
"A lot has changed in the last 200 years. Our tackle box has industrialised," said lead author Douglas McCauley, professor at University of California - Santa Barbara.
There are factory farms in the sea and cattle-ranch-style feed lots for tuna.
Shrimp farms are eating up mangroves with an appetite akin to that of terrestrial farming which consumed native prairies and forests.
"Stakes for seafloor mining claims are being pursued with gold-rush-like fervour and 300-ton ocean mining machines and 750-foot fishing boats are now rolling off the assembly line to do this work," explained co-author Steve Palumbi from Stanford University.
According to the authors, increasing industrial use of the oceans and the globalisation of ocean exploitation threaten to damage the health of marine wildlife, making the situation in the oceans as grim as that on land.
As McCauley pointed out, "We now fish with helicopters, satellite-guided super trawlers and long lines that can stretch from New York to Philadelphia."
"All signs indicate that we may be initiating a marine industrial revolution. We are setting ourselves up in the oceans to replay the process of wildlife Armageddon that we engineered on land," he warned.
Among the most serious threats to ocean wildlife is climate change, which, according to the scientists, is degrading marine wildlife habitats and has a greater impact on these animals than it does on terrestrial fauna.
The findings were published in the journal Science.