The Unnatural History of the Sea

The Unnatural History of the Sea

Callum Roberts / Feb 26, 2020
The Unnatural History of the Sea Humanity can make short work of the oceans creatures In hungry explorers discovered herds of Steller s sea cow in the Bering Strait and in less than thirty years the amiable beast had been har
  • Title: The Unnatural History of the Sea
  • Author: Callum Roberts
  • ISBN: 9781597261029
  • Page: 392
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 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 habitatHumanity 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.
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    About "Callum Roberts"

      • Callum Roberts

        Recently named in the Times as one of the 100 most influential UK scientists, Prof Callum Roberts is an award winning expert on Marine Conservation.His main research interests include documenting the impacts of fishing on marine life, both historic and modern, and exploring the effectiveness of marine protected areas For the last 10 years he has used his science background to make the case for stronger protection for marine life at both national and international levels His award winning book, The Unnatural History of the Sea, charts the effects of 1000 years of exploitation on ocean life.He lectures throughout the US, UK and Europe, and is frequently called on to give government briefings to the US Congress and Senate, as well as Whitehall.Callum is a WWF UK Ambassador, trustee of Seaweb, Fauna and Flora International and Blue Marine Foundation, and advisor to Save our Seas.

    997 Comments

    1. This book left me too angry and depressed to write coherently, so instead here s a brief glossary of terms which I hope might give you some idea why trawling technol a type of fishing in which the ocean floor is scraped clean, not only of fish, but of every living thing vertebrate and invertebrate, coral, even chunks of the reefs themselves An industry which extracts fish as a non renewable resource, like coal or oil Underwater strip mining on a near global scaleost fishing technol the stuff of [...]


    2. I went back and forth on whether or not to give this book five stars I ll start with the reason I didn t though it s not particularly well written Roberts beats the same point to death in chapter after chapter early in the book That point is that mankind has systematically, all over the world, devastated the oceans and seas to brink of exhaustion Time after time and in location after location This criticism made the book a fairly slow read, in addition to the fact that I felt terrible every time [...]


    3. This is a devastatingly detailed book about how we are raping, pillaging, and destroying the oceans, and have been for a long time I have known about this for quite awhile, but this book just lists fact after fact after fact about almost every category of seafood This is one reason I don t eat fish, and now I have a book to recommend to others.This book is a MUST read As I said I have known about this for a long time but i was unaware of the incredible extent of the devastation if I wasn t so nu [...]


    4. This book is a Bible for any marine biologist, historian, diver, seafood lover, environmentalist, fisherman or anyone who is interested in marine life Roberts book is perhaps the best effort I have ever come across for putting ocean life today into context he has made a tremendous effort to find obscure and esoteric records of fisheries and ocean life dating back as far to the first settlements in America, medieval fisheries, and some of the first ever accounts of fishing in the world It isn t r [...]


    5. Roberts is the Rachel Carson of the world s ocean wildlife and this book is his Silent Spring Interestingly, in some cases we don t realize the extent of damage done to the world s dramatically depleted fish stock because of baseline creep, our inability to remember or believe in stories of teeming ocean fisheries and long lost monster catches In other cases, the apparent damage is sudden, as when rapid technological innovations enable huge increases in our capacity to fish wider and diverse a [...]


    6. Roberts looks at original sources for descriptions of what the oceans were really like, what abundance once blessed the earth He reviews the technology that humans have devised to harvest the bounty of the oceans, and how each innovation has soon reduced formerly plentiful fish and other marine critters.It s truly shocking to realize how devastating the impact has been, from millions and billions of fish down to countable numbers, and how the remaining sea creatures have adapted to the changed w [...]


    7. As a scientific account of what has been taken from the world s oceans, and the extent to which technology has obliterated the idea of sustainable fisheries this book is fantastic I only dock it one star as I felt it lacked fluidity in places, tending towards dry facts at times rather than weaving a story However, there is so much research and information in this book, that it should be read by anyone vaguely interested in the sea or sustainable use, as it illustrates so clearly that our idea of [...]


    8. I can t recommend this book highly enough It is a compelling story of how we have arrived at our current, overfished, state and what we can do to reverse the trend I liked this book so much I am using it as a centerpiece of a course on historical ecology I designed.


    9. 3 parts of this book showed us very difference pictures of our marine lives From abundance first part of pre industrial era scarcity of post industrial revolution second part till Modern days and future fish business management 3rd part The invention of Fishing dredge was far dated 14th century, while some visionaries already predicted the fatal damage of this method of fishing would drain out the resource and caused extinction Meanwhile, we humans of all over the world increased the harvest wit [...]


    10. I thought this book might be out of date because the EU had finally dropped its idiotic fishing quotas policy However the book was about than the Common Fisheries Policy It told the history of fishing, particularly by Europeans and Americans over a thousand years It is a sort of economics book as well He shows how economic exploitation of shared natural resources led to collapses in species, populations and habitats, one after another I have rarely read a book that made me feel so angry and dep [...]


    11. the last book I read was Bottomfeeder and this one is excellent and very detailed history of our human atrocity against pretty much all the living organisms on the ground and especially in ocean modern days, humans still accept the fact to eat cows and pigs in huge onslaughtt, we never look back nor seldom to look into the fact that praising the development of our technologies, whether it is directly apply nor widespread application, on the society as a whole, has such a huge direct destruction [...]


    12. I had previously read The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson, which had by far the deepest impact on me of any book about the ocean I have ever read, and revolutionized the way I perceived the ocean I had also previously read Moby Duck The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them, which introduced me to the Great Garbage Patch and many other negative impacts humans have had on th [...]


    13. I have been zealous about my campaign to spread awareness about the emptying seas for many years now, but I didn t realize until I read this book how under informed I really was on the subject.Here I thought that commercial fishing was a new phenomenon, and that rapidly declining fish populations started halfway through the 20th century How wrong I was Our baselines have been shifting for centuries Mega fauna have been systematically stripped from the ocean everywhere humans have encountered it [...]


    14. It starts as a sad tale of what we now know emptied our seas The unnatural the seas have been emptied of much of their riches The stories of harvesting are vast We need to restore to allow ecosystems to repair themselvesif this planet is to remain healthy.


    15. If you eat anything from or connected to the oceans of the world and you have any concern for the future of life, even if only the lives of your descendants, then you would benefit from reading this book.



    16. For there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men Herman Melville, Moby DickSince the beginning of time man has been reliant on the sea An area rich in bounty and rewards, the oceans of the past held seemingly infinite hordes of whales, seals, fish and other countless marine life However, all was not as it seemed and time after time, for the love of profit and economic gain, we stripped these regions of their natural resources until inevitable [...]


    17. 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 marine life in many of the world s oceans over centuries The concerned tone is justified by the vast evidence synthesized throughout which provides a picture of how paltry today s oceanic cornucopia is compared to historical plenty After all, we ve been fishing down the food web while shifting our base [...]


    18. Since about 1000 AD, Europeans, their descendenants, the descendenants of their colonists, with help of all sorts of other people in last few decades, have been doing some serious fishing in saltwater In the last 150 years or so that has become serious enough to drastically reduce the abundance of some once common marine species.A small number of motifs repeat themselves throughout the book People start out fishing close to home, and as they reduce the fish or crustacean or bivalve populations, [...]


    19. I think this is a very important book, and a must read Unfortunately, it is not well written so I find it difficult to recommend it The main point that this book conveys is that the over exploitation of the seas began much earlier than is believed to be, and that the present baselines for what is considered healthy for oceans and a target for recovery is way too low Also, these baselines keep shifting, as people rely on their own experience, get used to what they see and dismiss older accounts a [...]


    20. This is a book about how human beings have spent thousands of years depleting life in the sea and learning almost nothing from the negative consequences of overhunting and overfishing It s one of the most depressing books I ve ever read in my life Almost every chapter introduces some jaunty and essentially harmless sea creature then details the efforts humans have made to wipe it out for fun and profit, a pattern that persists to this day Yes, there s also plenty of fun historical fact and detai [...]


    21. This book is a masterpiece It chronologically describes the destruction of the creatures of the sea I thought I was somewhat aware but this really opened my eyes Humanity started in local rivers and estuaries and moved gradually outwards, now plundering the deep, deep sea As technology increased, so did our capacity to plunder The description of the changing baseline, the idea that each new generation creates a new baseline of what is normal in the sea Even experts in the area underestimate prev [...]


    22. This is the most well written, fast paced depressing book you ll ever read Roberts meticulous and comprehensive research into the history of fishing and its impacts could have ended up a dry tome of doom and gloom, but in Roberts expert hands, it becomes fascinating although still depressing That Roberts can maintain his positive outlook toward humanity s ability to bring sea life back from the brink shows what a dedicated and determined scientist he is Most people, knowing what he knows about o [...]


    23. I began reading this book almost six weeks ago It s a stunning general history of the destruction of the seas fisheries over the past thousand years The same pattern emerges from the beginning deplete one highly favored fishery and then move on to another, perhaps less favorable, but move on So, serial exploitation and destruction occurred through the centuries First, the rich estuaries were wiped out, then the European continental shelf and shallow seas Then, with the age of exploration, Europe [...]


    24. This book angered me in at least three ways First, the tracks are far too long One wrong click will leave you scrambling to find your place Second, the narrator felt the need to distinguish various quotations by reading them in bogus, irritating accents At one point, I thought I was attending a party with a piratical theme Third, the content left me quivering with rage at the massive depletion of our natural heritage So much has been lost over the last 1,000 years, and so much of that due to gre [...]


    25. One of the most sobering and enlightening books I ve ever read The impact reading this had on me was comparable to Collapse, by Jared Diamond The first step to solving a problem is identifying it, and Callum Roberts does an amazing job of chronicling both what we had in the oceans, and what we ve lost It was amazing the extent to which the human race is capable of forgetting what it knows and has experienced Roberts has given us a chance to get it back.I read this book while on vacation in Beliz [...]


    26. A fascinating overview of the oceans and the impact that human fisheries have had since we became able to mass harvest the ocean Incredible tales of the untouched abundance of virgin seas and isolated places make for both an almost magical trip to what the ocean used to be like and a depressing appreciation for the fact that we have over fished and destroyed every major fishery we have ever started and we are running out.Worth a read for anyone interested in taking a very particular and enlighte [...]


    27. A deeply fascinating read It did take a year to slowly munch through it s giant size, but it was tasty and amazingly packed.Tons of detail and interesting history about how we have slowly fucked over the sea since year dot The history of trawling is surprising and really scary Will we ever learn or listen ever.The same issues keep cropping up time and time again and its quite astonishing that he managed to write a final optimistic ish chapter at the end At this point most people would just quit [...]


    28. A sad but true history of man s destruction of the oceans, the life within and underneath it and the unwillingness to take any steps to restore the bounty of the seas of old Technology and greed have depleted species, ruined reefs and sea floors as well as anoxic zones In several areas our over exploitation of the oceans has unwittingly recreated the seas that resemble the heyday of microbes in the Precambrian era before the rise of multi cellular life In the Adriatic Sea mucilage events shut do [...]


    29. Good important stuff, this book didn t add much beyond what I had already gotten out of Roberts other book, The Ocean of Life The Fate of Man and the Sea, and I found that one entertaining to read This was slow in the middle Either book makes a strong case for a simple plan establish a global network of marine reserves, to protect fisheries fish.


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