An Occasional Ramble by the Sea Including Loss, Adventure, bad news and blue news
April 3, 2007
By David Helvarg
Who hears the fishes when they Cry?
That’s what poet Henry David Thoreau wondered. My answer would be Ransom Myers who died of brain cancer on March 27 at the age of 54. One of the world’s leading fisheries scientists, he was also a cheerful, inspired and conservation minded individual. A biology professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, he was best known for his widely-reported 2003 study that found 90 percent of the large predator fish — sharks, billfish, groupers and the like — had been eradicated from world’s oceans since 1950 as a result of industrial over-fishing. Ram did similar studies on pelagic sharks and a major study now appearing in the new issue of Science magazine that explains how the slaughter of sharks along the Atlantic seaboard (mostly for shark fin soup) has also decimated the U.S. shellfish industry (sharks eat rays that eat scallops — kind of like that Passover song about the dog that ate the cat that ate the mouse).
His ability to scientifically demonstrate the ocean’s biological interconnectivity was impressive. He developed mathematical models for projecting rates of reproduction among marine fish, for example, along with other highly specialized studies that helped expand our understanding of the still living seas. And while many scientists are afraid to speak out on the implications of their research, Ram Myers was not of that meek and insular crowd.
Along with far more prestigious honors, he was the recipient of the first Blue Frontier Award for Science at the 2004 Blue Vision Conference in Washington DC. There he told us “The oceans are changing in ways that we simply cannot fathom. And we’re losing more and more biodiversity every day. There’s no equivalent of a blue frontier organization in Europe or in Southeast Asia, so I think we really need to take and expand that vision worldwide.”
Perhaps it was in looking to the future of his five children that he found his voice to speak truth to power. “I want there to be hammerhead sharks and blue fin tuna around when my five-year-old son grows up,” he told Science Daily in 2003.
Our condolences go out to his wife, children and other loved ones in Halifax. I also expect that his friends and colleagues in the marine science community; Boris Worm, Steve Palumbi, Paul Dayton, Nancy Rabalais, Mark Hixon, Andy Rosenberg, Jeremy Jackson, Nancy Knowlton, Peter Auster, Jane Lubchenco, Daniel Pauly, Greg Stone and others will continue his work by honestly informing the debate over the present state and future options for marine wildlife and their habitat on our blue frontier.
Like Blue Vision Keynote speaker and author Peter Benchley, who died in February 2006, I believe Ram’s life can inspire all of us to continue to fight to protect the diversity of life that is the miracle of creation on our blue marble planet. Otherwise who will hear the fishes when they’re gone?
Row, Row, Row your Boats
Last week I got to sit down at a DC bookshop cafe and chat with two inspiring waterwomen who, although they’d not met each other before, seemed like siblings, both 39-years-old, 5’4″, buff blond dynamos with a strong desire to save the ocean while also getting their stoke — or rather stroke – on.
Margo Pelligrino of New Jersey plans to paddle a kayak from Miami to Maine (or rather Miami2Maine) beginning in July meeting with seaweed activists along the way. I gave her a copy of our ‘Ocean and Coastal Conservation Guide,’ to help track them through the surf. Like a later-day Janey Kelpseed, she will spread the word on ocean conservation while raising money for local chapters of Surfrider. A number of groups including the National Environmental Trust will be providing her publicity and other support, as will many seaweeds along the way – we hope. Other heroes of the operation include her husband Carl who will be taking care of Julia, 2, and Billy, 5, during her 3 months long paddle. For more on her trip check out her lively website and stream-of-consciousness blogs at: http://web.mac.com/outriggerone/iWeb/Miami2Maine/Welcome.html
Roz Savage, while slightly less encumbered spawn-wise, plans fewer stops on her voyage. As she explains in her blog, she and Margo are “both paddling, one forward, one backwards, one east coast from town to town, one west coast — straight out.” Roz is looking to become the first woman to row solo across the Pacific, already being one of half a dozen women who have rowed across the Atlantic (105 days from the Canary Islands to Antigua in 2006).
Her 26-foot rowboat is equipped with a small-enclosed cabin space, solar panels, GPS, satellite trackers, sat. phone, CD, two sets of paddles and other essentials that have and are likely to break down again along the way. She will launch from San Francisco Bay in July. Her message (other than ‘No cyclones please’) is how we all have to reduce our use of plastic to protect our ocean home (see ’50 Ways to Save the Ocean’ chapter 19). The first leg of her journey will be SF to Hawaii. After a break it will be on to Tuvalu, one of several island nation-states slated to sink beneath the waves as a result of fossil-fuel fired climate change. From there, her final leg will take her to Australia where she’ll be greeted by enthusiastic crowds of dugongs. Blue Frontier Campaign plans to provide support to her efforts, including a launch party in July out of our new San Francisco Office. For more go to her website www.rozsavage.com
Hooked on Plastic
Speaking of plastic in the ocean, a depressing thought struck me while watching that new GE ‘Ecomagination’ TV ad where a Norwegian fishing boat pulls up nets full of plastic bottles containing desalinated drinking water. If by the 1980s global fishing power was taking 100 million tons of living biomass out of the world’s oceans (about 900 supertankers in weight) and if the world is now producing about 200 million tons of plastic a year, and half of that ends up in the ocean…Right, we’re then substituting a petrochemical byproduct for living marine wildlife on pretty much a one for one basis. Can’t we use our ‘ecomagination’ to come up with a better idea than that?
Oceans of Media 2
We’re into another wave of ocean media as the blue beat continues to expand. A three-part report, ‘Saving the Sea’s Bounty’ graces the cover of the April issue of National Geographic, if a young swordfish dead in a tuna net can be called graceful. Outside magazine’s new ‘Green Issue’ includes profiles of a number of blue folks including Paul Watson, Yvon Chouinard, Jean-Michel Cousteau, and Blue Frontier advisory board member Bobby Kennedy Jr. (in a fish tank with a carp no less). The PBS 10-Part Series, ‘Journey to Planet Earth,’ featured “The State of the Ocean’s Animals” on March 28th, naming sea otters ‘heroes of kelp forest restoration’ for taking out those nasty urchins, but neglecting to mention the otter’s unsavory sex habits that make them poor role models for America’s youth (see ‘Blue Frontier — Dispatches from America’s Ocean Wilderness,’ pages 236-238).
Among the more interesting newspaper stories is one in the March 26 Washington Post by Juliet Eilperin examining the growing number of marine animal die-offs around the nation. The March 19 South Florida Sun-Sentinel ran a cover story by William (Bill?) Gibson on ‘Harnessing Our Ocean’ about researchers working on non-carbon ocean turbines driven by the Gulf Stream, Ocean Thermal Power pumps, even underwater hydrogen generators.
And who’s the eye candy on the cover of the new Washington Life magazine? Why it’s Blue Frontier board member Philippe Cousteau and his ocean washed jean-huggin’ sibling Alexandra. The two co-founders of EarthEcho and third generation explorer/activists are profiled in the magazine’s ‘Earth’ Issue. And while we know that it’s really planet Ocean we’re willing to give the editors a pass for highlighting the work of these two Generation ‘O’ educators.
Blue Vision 08 is Coming…
We’re beginning to get good feedback on the July ‘O8 Blue Vision Summit that will be held in Washington DC. It looks like a couple of day-long organizing and strategy conferences will first take place this coming September, one in San Francisco and another the following week in D.C. We’ll be providing more details soon, or if you have ideas, questions or input contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
Surfing for a web rider
We’re still looking for someone to help us update and expand our bluefront.org website, get better placement for ‘Blue Notes,’ update our Wikpedia and You Tube stuff and generally hook us into the digital age for a few hundred mackerels a month (or we’ll provide dollars if you insist).
For the rest of you who are feeling like something’s missing from your reading experience, a donation at www.bluefront.org is always appreciated.
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