Britain's seas are seriously ailing and the species that depend on them suffering as never before. The most comprehensive "health check" ever made of the waters around our shores has revealed that, while Britannia once ruled the waves, now it is helping destroy what lives beneath them.
Fish stocks are on the brink of collapse. Species are changing sex because of pollution. Dolphins and porpoises are being killed at unprecedented rates. Water temperatures are rising, and the seabed is being destroyed.
In a disturbing insight into the state of our seas, the government-led investigation has found clear proof that the seas around the British Isles are already suffering the effects of global warming - threatening the survival of fish such as cod and raising the risk of a sudden, catastrophic change in weather patterns.
The study, compiled by the Department for Food, Environment and the Regions (Defra) after 18 months of reviewing all current marine research, found that water temperatures and sea levels are now rising around Britain, while salt levels are dropping because of melting Arctic ice caps. Meanwhile native plankton species - vital to the survival of many fish stocks - are slowly disappearing.
This deeply worrying picture has emerged from 900-page report, which is being published by ministers on Tuesday, into the true state of the seas around the British Isles - historically one of the world's richest marine environments. The audit, which has been peer reviewed, reveals how:
t sea temperatures have risen by 0.6C a decade, and by up to 1.5C in winter;
t sea levels are rising by up to 2mm a year because of melting ice caps and increased rainfall;
t sea water is becoming more acidic because of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the air;
t fish, such as cod, haddock, herring, blue whiting and sole, are being fished outside safe limits, with cod "in danger of collapse";
t common skate and angel shark have disappeared from the Irish Sea and the Channel;
t cold-water plankton - the most basic food stuff for young cod and other
native species - is moving northwards and being replaced by warm- water plankton;
t deep-sea trawlers are harming fish such as orange roughie and anglerfish, and devastating ancient and fragile coral beds off western Scotland;
t winter storms are growing more intense and wave heights increasing by 30cm a decade, risking flooding and cliff erosion in regions such as East Anglia, north Wales and southern England;
t estuaries such as the Mersey, Clyde and Tees are showing "undesirably high" toxic contamination from heavy metals and chemicals, which has led to flounder and dab showing signs of cancer and suffering sex changes;
t a "significant" number of shellfish farms are unsafe and beaches are being closed due to sewage contamination; …