Ecology of the oceans

Deep Water, Profondeurs des Eaux, Aguas Profundas by Julian Caldecott (text) and Melanie Salmon (pictures), in English, French and Spanish (Ellipsis, London 1999), parallel text edition available from Amazon.

From the Foreword by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme:

“The Haida people of Canada’s Pacific coast have a saying that brings out the challenge of protecting our natural heritage very vividly.  They challenge us to turn the telescope around with the saying: ‘We do not inherit the land from our forefathers, we borrow it from our children‘.  If all of us approached issues from this perspective, we would take a firm step back from the ecological brink and breathe easier while our oceans and seas renew their resources.”

From the review by David Cromwell (Medialens, 19 August, 2000):

“I may be an oceanographer, but really I’m just a physicist who stumbled upon the subject of the oceans. I had no idea, for example, that an incredible eighty per cent of the world’s biodiversity lives in the sea. I knew that, every night, there are marine creatures that migrate upwards in the water column to feed in food-rich surface layers, then retreat to deeper levels as dawn breaks before predators can find them in the daylight. Indeed, I had seen evidence of this with my own eyes while undertaking research at sea. But I was amazed to learn that tiny, two-millimetre copepods travel 500 metres twice a day: the equivalent of a human running a marathon before breakfast and another after supper! Nor did I know that, from the toxin of the cone shell, scientists are developing a pain killer one hundred times more effective than morphine. Who knows what other medical treasures may be out there in the seven seas?”

Deep Water is crammed full of amazing facts that illustrate the age-old life dilemmas of feeding, moving around, staying alive and finding a mate. Take sex, for instance. For some species, encounters between individuals are few and far between. Nature has, of course, come up with ingenious solutions to ensure propagation. For example, when two male flatworms off eastern Australia meet, they fence with their penises to determine who should be the female. The loser is injected with the victor’s sperm. A sobering thought indeed.”

“But the book goes beyond a mere parade of the weird and the wonderful. The authors rightly tackle the impact of human activities on the ocean and the life therein. Here, there is much to shock the reader. How many people are aware that as much as one-third of the world’s fishing catch is thrown back in the sea, dead or dying? Or that purse seines, used to catch tuna and which operate like drawstring bags, have probably killed around 10 million dolphins in the last decade? And then there is the smorgasbord of human-induced marine pollution: nuclear, oil, chemical and household, even noise. As Caldecott and Salmon state with passion: ‘It makes no sense to harvest productive fisheries to death, or to pollute our common home.’ It may not make sense, but there is much short-term profit at stake … Deep Water is a highly recommended addition to any library, beautifully illustrated throughout and with text in English, French and Spanish. There is also an extensive contact list of organisations and individuals working in marine conservation. Now, if they could all just link up with the wider movement to protect people and the planet in the face of destructive globalisation!”