The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea Reprint Edition
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—Christian Science Monitor
“Told with both scientific accuracy and narrative skill. . . . I know of no other volume that treats such divergent ocean issues as overfishing, decreasing pH, plastic pollution and biogeographic shifts with this much accuracy and acumen. Each chapter is edged with fascinating details about the life of the sea. At the heart of this book is a deep love of the ocean and a profound concern for its viability as a resource for us all.”
—Stephen Palumbi, Nature
“Roberts is that precious pearl: a practicing scientist who not only knows his field inside out, but also understands how to write compelling, persuasive non-fiction. . . . To use the vernacular of his book, he has trawled and plundered these experiences to craft the nearest thing we are ever likely to get to an all-encompassing manifesto for sustainable marine management.”
“Callum Roberts has done it again. From showing us the past with the wisdom of a Dickens character in his earlier book, he now leads us toward the future in The Ocean of Life. It’s a book so fine, I wish I’d written it!”
—Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean
“The urgency of Callum Roberts' message - that we have very little time to save the oceanic environment on which our existence depends - is in no way undermined by the entertaining and brilliantly-written nature of his writing. This is simply a fascinating book, taking in everything from the elemental formations of the oceans to the denizens that inhabit them; from minute plankton to the great whales - and everything that threatens them, and us. Roberts imparts his vast knowledge with a consummate talent for colorful narrative and devastating facts. His book will be required reading for anyone who cares about the oceans—not least because, as well as underlining the scale of the problems, he offers us the hope of real solutions.”
—Philip Hoare, author of Leviathan, or The Whale
“The enormity of the sea’s troubles, and their implications for mankind, are mind-boggling. Yet it is remarkable how little this is recognised. . . . There is a dearth of good and comprehensive books on a subject that can seem too complicated and depressing for any single tome. Callum Roberts, a conservation biologist, has now provided one.”
“The eminent marine biologist Callum Roberts weaves his personal passion for the oceans through the enchanting story of the evolution of the planet’s water… Blending science and observation, he issues a compelling call to move from the catastrophic path we are on. Like Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring, which catalyzed the environmental movement, The Ocean of Life is eloquent and authoritative.
-- David Suzuki, host of “The Nature of Things”
“Those of us who worry about the future of our oceans could do a lot worse than take up this single refrain, "Listen to Callum Roberts!". Shouted in the ears of the world's leaders, it might just make a difference. Meanwhile we should all read Ocean of Life, a thrilling narrative of oceanic natural history and a vital call to action”
--Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef, broadcaster and author of The River Cottage Cookbook
“An engrossing survey of the relationship between man and the sea for readers living through the greatest environmental changes in 65 million years. . . . Roberts’s meditation will have readers gasping aloud with wonder, even as the sobering truth of humans’ profound interdependence with the sea provokes concern.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
'For anyone who loves the sea, Ocean of Life is a wake-up call, an urgent alert' --Daily Mail
'At the heart of this book is a deep love of the ocean and a profound concern for its viability as a resource for us all'
'An impressive history ... one of this book's strengths is the many solutions Roberts outlines.'
-- Financial Times
About the Author
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The fisherman of the world have scrapped the bottoms for almost all that is edible. The mud stirred up by the trawlers can be seen from space discoloring the ocean for days. The bycatch often exceeds the sea food sought. Most all the bycatch dies and is tossed back into the sea. As the population of the world increases the catch from the sea decreases, especially on a per person basis. The fishermen and their families will starve to death if they stop fishing but in many places they are starving slowly by fishing. Most importantly they are interupting the cycle of life. The politicians of the world listen to the fisherman not the scientist. The politicians are very, very reluctant to stop all fishing in 30% of the oceans so that they may recover and assist in the recovery of those portions of the ocean still being fished. The author is not the only scientist to point out the need for this drastic step.
Trawl fishing should not be allowed in all environments due to the destruction of the bottom crusts that other animals and plants depend on. The great quantities of waste in the form of discarded dead by-catch needs to be greatly reduced. The ocean has been viewed as too large to be harmed, but we are finding this to be incorrect. We continue to over fish and degrade the ocean environment because it has been done this way in the past. We have the opportunity to allow recovery if areas are protected .
Top international reviews
If you care about the sea, sea food and your children's future, read it.
Roberts starts by reminding us of "shifting baseline syndrome" - the fact each generation can be unaware it is witnessing an impoverished environment vis-a-vis the past. Roberts cites e.g., how the fish landed at Key West reduced in size during the 1950's-1980's, and how the catch landed from the North Sea has plummeted since 1890 in spite of huge technological advances.
Some of the analysis is complicated, but, briefly Roberts talks of the 5 horsemen of the on-going apocalypse i.e., climate change, pollution, overkill (by fishing), invasive species, and habitat loss. For example, climate change brings temperature changes at a speed species may have difficulty adjusting to ... and increased CO2 levels that acidify the ocean. Pollution results inter alia in enormous plankton blooms, huge areas of floating debris trapped in oceanic gyres, and e.g., plastics entering the food chain. Fishing is on a scale, using methods, which have devastated and continue to devastate fish stocks and the submarine web of life. I was stunned by the atrocious statistics the author gives of collateral damage from long line fishing for mahi-mahi (near Costa Rica); to capture 211 mahi-mahi cost the lives of 468 olive ridley turtles, 408 pelagic stingrays, 413 silky sharks, 47 devil rays, 24 thresher sharks, 22 blue marlin, 34 striped marlin, etc.,.
Callum Roberts says that though things will get worse for some years he is optimistic e.g., because man is flexible and inventive and because- in an environment where people are increasingly aware of the problems - Roberts has been pleased that it's proved possible to establish some marine reserves. For my money there are good grounds for being very worried. Perhaps it's true that global population will peak in mid-century, but the global economy is using more and more resources and climate change, acidification and pollution are not under control.
But this book is also a major wake-up call for humanity - we have so abused the seas that if we don't change our habits VERY soon then we will no longer be able to take advantage of its munificent bounty.
It's not too late - but we need to act NOW - and this book is an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to be rationally informed about what they can actually DO to make a difference.
The book goes through the issues, both physical and biological, which affect the overall health of the oceans and which need addressing.
The rapid deterioration of the oceans during the past 50 or so years and the speed with which man now needs to change his ways is especially worrying.
If you are feeling down because of the sheer quantity of threats, stay positive and keep reading. There are good news stories and Roberts outlines how we can live in a different way nurturing our natural resources and wildlife-living a richer existence.
Why do the worlds Governments, in the main, ignore the science and just listen to the commercial intrests.