Over 15,300 fish species have been documented in a database, according to a new report issued by the Census of Marine Life. The Unknown Ocean: Baseline Report for the Census of Marine Life, the project’s first report in a ten-year, US$1 billion study, documents the identification of 160 new marine fish species each year since 2000, along
with around 1,700 other animals and marine plants. The census is adding about 150 to 200 species of fish and 1,700 species of animals and plants each year. Over the next seven years, the census hopes to bring the total number of marine species on the database to well over 210,000.

More than 300 scientists from 53 countries are at work on the Census, which is designed to assess the diversity, distribution and abundance of ocean life and explain how it changes over time. The scientists, their institutions and government agencies are pooling their findings to create a comprehensive and authoritative portrait of life in the oceans.

“Some 95% of the ocean is still unexplored biologically,” said Jesse Ausubel, Programme Director of the Census of Marine Life. “By the end of the 10-year census initiative, we expect several results…we will have identified many new species and will know with far greater precision how many remain undiscovered.”

The Census of Marine Life, funded by governments with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is affiliated with several international organizations, including the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UNEP.

Links to further information:

Census of Marine Life homepage

Census of Marine Life press release, 23 October 2003

UN Wire press release, 23 October 2003


Sun, 01 Sep 2002

"Biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate - as much as a thousand times what it would be without the impact of human activity.Half of the tropical rainforests and man- groves have already been lost. About 75 percent of marine fisheries have been fished to capacity. 70 percent of coral reefs are endangered. We must reverse this process -- preserving as many species as possible, and clamping down on illegal and unsustainable fishing and logging practices -- while helping people who currently depend on such activities to make a transition to more sustainable ways of earning their living...."

Kofi Annan, U.N.