It is one of the scariest books I've ever read and one of the saddest. But his descriptions of the problems facing the ocean conform to what I've read in other sources and to things I've seen for myself, so I think it's probably not exaggerated. It's also contains some grains of optimism, in that he describes some reasonable courses that people can take to reduce human impact on the oceans and restore sea life. Whether we will be able to get our acts together to at least partially restore sea life and save some of the world's coral reefs is another matter. If Dr. Roberts is right that's still at least a possibility.
The book is excellent. I checked out the book from our public library and found "The Ocean of Life" was such a good resource that I ordered a reference copy for myself from Amazon. Callum has another book titled: "The Unnatural History of the Sea" which describes the changes witnessed in the ocean over time and our 'Shifting Baselines' which we rate the ocean environment by what we see today. Unfortunately we underestimate the wealth of species and abundance due to our present viewpoint. When we can see what the ocean HAD to offer in the past and realize the extent of what we have lost, we can attempt to bring back some of the conditions and wealth of organisms seen in the past. We have been grossly underestimating and over exploiting the resources within our ocean environments for hundreds of years. It is imperative that we create replenishment zones in our world's oceans for the health of our planet and a resource for our use. The goal would be somewhere between 30-40 percent of our oceans closed to fishing and the allowance of the rebuilding of these environments from the bottom up. 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 .
Seeing that oceans cover about two-thirds of the globe, and the sea is an important source of world protein, and is a relatively unknown area for most people, it would be wise if all read this book. It appears to be set up as an introductory text. I read the text as a retired agronomist with a primary interest of increasing my knowledge of the oceans as a source of food for the world. It added much to my growing knowledge while confirming the serious question as to whether the oceans will be able to continue being a major supplier of protein. Roberts appears to be more optimistic than Carl Safina, another writer of the oceans, and I.
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.
This book should be required reading for anyone who consumes seafood or cares about the impact of climate change, pollution and mining/drilling on our planet. Compelling, interesting and easy to follow for the non-scientific minded reader. Don’t let the chapter on the boring billions put you off.
I teach a class on ecology, half of which is about marine ecology and the impact that humans have on the ecosystems that they depend on. I will be using this book as part of my class this year. I think it gives a really good overview of the biggest issues threatening the ocean today. As others have said, it is not a quick and easy read, but it is a good balance between the scientist who wants to put in every detail and citation and the writer who wants to make it accessible to people who are not experts. It is full of good and important information and I hope it will be widely read.
This view of environmental damage already accomplished and in progress in the oceans seems nearly complete to me. The damage is worldwide and probably irreversible. The book presents a subdued but unmissable argument for the control of world population. Without such control there can be neither effective management of environmental degradation nor of global carbon emissions.
The research for the book must have been extensive, almost exhaustive, particularly in summarising the causes and effects of irresponsible fisheries management. I thought the lines of reasoning used entirely persuasive. To be picky, I would point out that the Australian snapper is not grey but pink or red; and that Velella is a cnidarian, not a mollusc.
I strongly recommend the book as a near complete and accurate summary of the results of exploiting the oceans.