The Unnatural History of the Sea
Island Press, 2009 M01 5 - 456 pages
Humanity can make short work of the oceans’ creatures. In 1741, hungry explorers discovered herds of Steller’s sea cow in the Bering Strait, and in less than thirty years, the amiable beast had been harpooned into extinction. It’s a classic story, but a key fact is often omitted. Bering Island was the last redoubt of a species that had been decimated by hunting and habitat loss years before the explorers set sail.
As Callum M. Roberts reveals in The Unnatural History of the Sea, the oceans’ bounty didn’t disappear overnight. While today’s fishing industry is ruthlessly efficient, intense exploitation began not in the modern era, or even with the dawn of industrialization, but in the eleventh century in medieval Europe. Roberts explores this long and colorful history of commercial fishing, taking readers around the world and through the centuries to witness the transformation of the seas.
Drawing on firsthand accounts of early explorers, pirates, merchants, fishers, and travelers, the book recreates the oceans of the past: waters teeming with whales, sea lions, sea otters, turtles, and giant fish. The abundance of marine life described by fifteenth century seafarers is almost unimaginable today, but Roberts both brings it alive and artfully traces its depletion. Collapsing fisheries, he shows, are simply the latest chapter in a long history of unfettered commercialization of the seas.
The story does not end with an empty ocean. Instead, Roberts describes how we might restore the splendor and prosperity of the seas through smarter management of our resources and some simple restraint. From the coasts of Florida to New Zealand, marine reserves have fostered spectacular recovery of plants and animals to levels not seen in a century. They prove that history need not repeat itself: we can leave the oceans richer than we found them.
What people are saying - Write a review
Reviews aren't verified, but Google checks for and removes fake content when it's identified
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - Pinniped23 - LibraryThing
I read this a few years back but really loved it! Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - bfertig - LibraryThing
With The Unnatural History of the Sea, Callum Roberts extensively documents the destructiveness and shortsightedness that fishing has generally had on the abundance, distribution, and diversity of ... Read full review
Explorers and Exploiters in the Age of Plenty
The End of Innocence
The Origins of Intensive Fishing
More Fish than Water
Plunder of the Caribbean
The Age of Merchant Adventurers
The Downfall of King
Slow Death of an Estuary Chesapeake
The Collapse of Coral
Hunting on the High Plains of the Open
Violating the Last Great Wilderness
The Once and Future Ocean
WhalingThe First Global Industry
To the Ends of the Earth for Seals
The Great Fisheries of Europe
The First Trawling Revolution
The Dawn of Industrial Fishing
The Modern Era of Industrial Fishing
The Legacy of Whaling
Emptying European Seas
Other editions - View all
The Unnatural History of the Sea: The Past and the Future of Man, Fisheries ...
No preview available - 2007
Common terms and phrases
abalone abundance America animals areas banks boats bottom California called catch caught century Chesapeake close coast continued coral decline deep described developed discovered early effects England estimated Europe European example feet fish fisheries five gear grounds growing Gulf habitats half History human hundred hunting increased industry Island killed killer kilometers land late later less levels live London look Maine marine marine reserves meters miles million natural nets never North North Sea northern numbers ocean once otters oysters Pacific passed percent places populations predators Press production protection reach reefs region remains reserves rise rivers schools scientists seals seemed seen sharks ships shore soon spawning species stocks supply sustainable taken thousand tonnes trade trawl trawlers turn turtles University vessels Voyage whales