Song for the Ocean Blue

Encounters along the world's coasts and beneath the seas

Posted: 18 October 2000

Author: Carl Safina
Henry Holt, New York, 1998, $30.00

Fifty years ago, Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac inspired a generation to begin conserving North America's wild lands and their wildlife. But while the terrestrial conservation movement grew and flourished, the oceans and their wildlife continued to suffer, largely out of sight and out of mind.

At last, someone has published a book that may change all of that. Carl Safina has written the Sand County Almanac of the sea.Song for the Blue Ocean is a chronicle of personal experience and received wisdom in the fight to save our oceans and their wildlife. Safina takes us to New England, to discover the precarious and controversial status of the magnificent and valuable Atlantic bluefin tuna and swordfish. We travel to the great Pacific Northwest, where we learn of the myriad threats to the once-mighty runs of salmon, animals whose lifestyle Safina describes as "so seemingly heroic as to appear mythical." And we go far out into the Pacific, where we experience efforts to combat the threat of cyanide fishing to the coral reefs of Palau and the Philippines.

At once richly evocative and profoundly moving, Safina's prose is also refreshingly readable for that of a scientist. His descriptions of the ocean environment and its fishes betray this writer as a knowledgeable man with deep passions and convictions for the ocean and its creatures. Equally evident are Safina's sense of humour, humanity, and genuine respect for the people he meets along the way, even those with whom he disagrees. But Song is much more than a paean for the oceans, their wildlife, and the people who depend on them. It's an exposé of the enormous threats to the marine environment and a stinging indictment of the status quo. Safina condemns the complacent bureaucrats, political compromises, corporate greed, and "calculated misanthropy" that have destroyed the species and places he loves. Song is a powerful and eloquent call to action for all those who love the sea, the livelihoods it fosters, and the wondrous biological diversity it harbours.

Reviewer: Michael Sutton

Reviewer Info: Michael Sutton is Director of the WWF's Endangered Seas Campaign based in England.