What the Wild Sea Can Be
The Future of the World’s Ocean
by Helen Scales
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Pub Date 16 Jul 2024 | Archive Date 16 Jul 2024
Grove Atlantic, Atlantic Monthly Press
The acclaimed marine biologist and author of The Brilliant Abyss examines the existential threats the world’s ocean will face in the coming decades and offers cautious optimism for much of the abundant life within in
No matter where we live, “we are all ocean people,” Helen Scales emphatically observes in her bracing yet hopeful exploration of the future of the ocean. Beginning with its fascinating deep history, Scales links past to present to show how the prehistoric ocean ecology was already working in ways similar to the ocean of today. In elegant, evocative prose, she takes readers into the realms of animals that epitomize today’s increasingly challenging conditions. Ocean life everywhere is on the move as seas warm, and warm waters are an existential threat to emperor penguins, whose mating grounds in Antarctica are collapsing. Shark populations—critical to balanced ecosystems—have shrunk by 71 per cent since the 1970s, largely the result of massive and oft-unregulated industrial fishing. Orcas—the apex predators—have also drastically declined, victims of toxic chemicals and plastics with long half-lives that disrupt the immune system and the ability to breed.
Yet despite these threats, many hopeful signs remain. Increasing numbers of no-fish zones around the world are restoring once-diminishing populations. Astonishing giant kelp and sea grass forests, rivaling those on land, are being regenerated and expanded. They may be our best defense against the storm surges caused by global warming, while efforts to reengineer coral reefs for a warmer world are growing.
Offering innovative ideas for protecting coastlines and cleaning the toxic seas, Scales insists we need more ethical and sustainable fisheries and must prevent the other existential threat of deep-sea mining, which could significantly alter life on earth. Inspiring us all to maintain a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty beneath the waves, she urges us to fight for the better future that still exists for the Anthropocene ocean.