But Jeremy Jackson, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, says just the enforcement of fishery regulations would help prevent such extinctions.
Jackson says certain steps, if taken immediately, might reverse the demise of the Earth's ocean species. Those measures include establishing marine reserves, eliminating subsidies for fertilizer use and limiting fossil fuel consumption.
In addition to the extinction of edible fish species, he said without the immediate implementation of ocean-protection measures, larger dead zones and toxic algal blooms may form along the coastal zones of all of the world's continents, increasing disease outbreaks and inhibiting vertical mixing of ocean waters.
"Some may say that it is irresponsible to make such predictions pending further detailed study to be sure of every point," said Jackson. "However, we will never be certain about every detail, and it would be irresponsible to remain silent in the face of what we already know."
The study appears in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.