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Trends Ecol Evol. 1999 Jun;14(6):241-246.

Extinction risk in the sea.


Jean Baptiste de Lamarck and Thomas Huxley, two of the foremost thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries, believed that humanity could not cause the extinction of marine species. Their opinions reflected a widespread belief that the seas were an inexhaustible source of food and wealth of which people could barely use a fraction. Such views were given weight by the abundant fisheries of the time. Additionally, the incredible fecundity and wide distributions of marine fishes, combined with limited exploitation, provided ample justification for optimism. The ideas of Huxley and Lamarck persist to this day, despite a sea change in the scale and depth of our influence on the oceans. Marine species could be at a far greater risk of extinction than we have assumed.

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