We’re Killing Our Oceans

All over the world fish populations, like these tuna, are collapsing due to overfishing and pollution.

As readers of my blog know, I’m passionate about saving our environment from the effects of human pollution and reckless industrialization. In Global Warming and the Loss of Earth’s Coral Reefs I discussed the scientific evidence for the disastrous effects of ocean warming and increasing CO2 in ocean water on our planets reefs.

In The Moral Math of Climate Change I highlighted an interview with Bill McKibben, a leading environmentalist and writer who has been ahead of the curve on this issue of climate change since he wrote The End of Nature in 1989. As I wrote there:

“If our use of science and technology is guided by a deep sense of the beauty and wonder of nature, I think we will tend to make better decisions about the use science and of technology. If we have a vision of the preciousness of all life on Earth, we will tend to make choices that are for the long-term benefit of all beings on this amazing “pale blue dot” of a planet that is our only home.”

In this post, I want to highlight an outstanding science article by investigative reporter Mike Miliard of The Boston Phoenix, a great alternative newspaper from my old home town. In this sobering article Miliard asks the question, “Is it too late to save the seas that sustain us?” The answer he finds talking to oceanographers and biologist highlights the urgency of the challenge humanity faces.

I urge you to read the whole article at We’re Killing the Oceans, but here are some “unpleasant truths” from the article about what we are doing to our oceans:

The Big Picture-Oceans in Crisis

Blue whale populations have declined dramatically due to unregulated commercial whaling, putting them at risk of extinction.

“Today, there are barely 400 North Atlantic right whales left on the planet. Ocean scientists say that Atlantic cod has been fished down to the last 10 percent of its population, and that those stocks may never be restored. Much of that degradation has taken place in only 50 years or so, since the advent of mechanized fishing.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch may contain over 100 million tons of debris and is nearly the size of the continental United States.

But it’s not just ruthless whaling and foolhardy fishing practices that are plaguing the world’s oceans. Underwater, things are bad all over — from the acidifying Atlantic to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A perfect storm of climate change, pollution, and rapacious global fishing practices has the potential to gravely imperil Earth’s oceans and their intricate, highly sensitive ecosystems.”

Selfish and Uncompassionate Fishing Practices

In order to catch one pound of shrimp, fishermen scrape a net along the ocean floor, often killing up to 12 pounds of other animals.

“You take a net, and you scrape it along the bottom to catch shrimp. In the process, everything else — all the little stuff that lives on the bottom, the sponges and the coral and all the habitat for baby animals — you wipe all that out. To catch one pound of shrimp, we might kill 12 pounds of other animals that get thrown back into the sea [dead] as by-catch.

“If we did that on land — to catch a single deer you go through the forest and kill all the raccoons and squirrels and skunks and everything that lives there — people would be outraged. Yet you can do it in the ocean and nobody cares.”

Ocean “Acidification”

“One of the biggest problems that’s not yet on other people’s radar…is ocean acidification. That’s when an excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, soaked up by the ocean, leads to a decrease in the water’s pH level, stripping the sea of carbonate ions, which are crucial for calcification.

The result… is that it ‘wipes out things like coral reefs — anything with a calcium structure, including shellfish and these little mollusks that are consumed by a lot of other animals.’

‘If you wipe them out, the whole floor of the oceanic food chain collapses…and we don’t know what happens after that.'”

A Watershed Moment

The future of the oceans is in our hands—what will we do?

“Despite all this layered complexity, and the hard realities of climate change and overfishing… a way forward can be found that strikes a sustainable balance between environmental and economic necessities.

Part of what’s needed…is a better grasp of climate change, and more finely tuned science ‘to help us understand why stocks go up and down, either in connection with fishing, which they do sometimes, and independent of fishing, which they do sometimes.'”

Every Awakened Heart Counts

One thing Miliard’s article makes clear is that time is short. There’s so much to lose. Will future generations look back and thank us for coming to our senses and stopping global warming in time? Or will they forever curse us for our selfishness, ignorance, and self-centered belief that the world and its oceans existed solely for us and for our benefit?

Time will tell, but time is running out. That’s the very inconvenient truth about the only home—and ocean—we’ve ever known and may ever know.


We’re Killing the Oceans by Mike Miliard in The Boston Phoenix

Global Warming and the Loss of Earth’s Coral Reefs

The Moral Math of Climate Change

The Largest Animal that Ever Lived (about the mighty Blue Whale)


One Response to “We’re Killing Our Oceans”
  1. carmen says:

    Hello, we’re starting a revolution campaign to save our oceans.
    we’re beginning in mexico, we need some pictures for our webpage i was wondering if you could send us one with your permits to use it, the one of the garbage patch.
    Thanks so much
    hope u can help us!

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