Book Review: Ocean of Life: How Our Seas are Changing
Ocean of Life: How Our Seas are Changing
by Callum Roberts
Allen Lane , 2012
Did you know that almost all hand creams contains plastic granules, added as an exfoliant? These granules end up washed out to sea. Here they gather toxins on their surface before being eaten by plankton who mistake them for fish eggs. From plankton they pass up the food chain and back to us. Just one of alarming ways in which we are needlessly damaging the oceans
In his book “Ocean of Life“, Professor Callum Roberts details threats posed by the cosmetic industry, fishing, noise, rising sea-levels, global warming, acidification, fish farming and so on. Towards the end of the book, just when you’re beginning to think the state of the seas is hopeless, he provides a series of simple solutions to reverse the damage and protect the oceans.
The book includes 58 photos. The first three graphically emphasise the massive reduction of fish size over the past 50 years. they show a recreational fish catch in Key West, Florida in the 1950s, 70s and 2007. From many fish as big as the fisherman in the 1950s, to still lots of fish but considerably smaller in the 70s to much fewer and even smaller fish in the present day. The book makes the point that corporate greed is destroying fishermens’ livelihood and fishing industry representatives are in denial. Amazingly, in 1889 fishermen caught more than twice as many bottom fish (cod, haddock, plaice and the like) as today. For every hour spent fishing today – with all our electronic gadgets to find the fish – fishermen land just 6% of what they did 120 years ago!
Roberts suggests remedies ranging from the global – such as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants which has been signed by most of the world’s nations – to local – such as beach clean-ups by volunteers to remove the plastic before it gets into the sea. Placing areas off-limits has proven time and again to be a powerful tool: we need interconnected safe havens. Luckily, more and more nations are now creating marine proteced areas.
I highly recommend this book. In fact, I think it should be required reading for every politician. The points are made with stories and anecdotes in an extremely clear way. The science is there to back the stories up, but no scientific knowledge is required to understand the points being made. Callum Roberts succeeds in presenting his case in a way that is open to everyone. One of the best books of this year. Buy it. You will find it both fascinating and shocking.
About the Author:
Callum Roberts is professor of marine conservation at the University of York. He has been a visiting Professor at Harvard and was consultant to the BBC’s Blue Planet.
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