A new report by an international panel of marine experts says the health of the world’s oceans is deteriorating to the point that we are “at high risk for entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.” And while warnings of impending ecological disaster abound, this one is particularly worrisome because there’s so much about the undersea world we don’t understand, Bryan Walsh says at Time.

The problem is not just overfishing, according to the report by the International Programme on the state of the Ocean. It’s that, and marine pollution and global warming acting together to change the ocean environment at an unexpectedly rapid pace. Oceanic warming, increased acidification and oxygen are creating conditions that could lead to mass extinctions.

“From a geological point of view, mass extinctions happen overnight, but on human timescales we  may not realize that we are in the middle of such an event,” one researcher said.

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