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Song for the Blue Ocean : Encounters Along the World's Coasts and Beneath the Seas

by Carl Safina

An important book for understanding the complexity of the sea in the simplest of terms.

Safina weaves a masterful story of our oceans and the precarious relationship between man and sea. Unlike scientific environmental works, Safina tells the story of three very different communities and their relationships to a dying environment. The use of language, the intriguing personal accounts actually experienced by the author, and a deep understanding of the complexity of the sea are evident in this work. The fact that Safina has lived several different lives colors his portrayal: 1) marine biologist 2) fisherman from Long Island 3) accomplished author 4) environmentalist. In fact, his Blue Ocean Institute in Cold Spring Harbor has an interesting twist on environmentalism that we will bring to you next month.

This is not a new book. It was published in 1999. It is an important book and we wanted to highlight it for you. It is divided into three major communities: New England and bluefin tuna, the Pacific Northwest and salmon, and the southwest Pacific and aquarium fishes. Safina does not attempt to create a scientific treatise documenting all the ocean's problems, but rather focuses on three extremely well researched and distinct areas that illustrate the problems.

Safina is not a typical environmentalist with all the answers. He is a concerned individual who tells the complex story of how a "simple" event like overfishing can occur in our modern world. The interrelated dynamics of economy, politics, science, families, occupations, and age lead to the "simple" problems that he describes. One can only understand the problem and take action when one undersands and accepts the complex dynamics that created the problem. Refreshingly, Safina steers well clear of the traditional, simplified environmentalist stance that points fingers at single sources like government, long line fishermen, and cyanide as a method.

The epilogue alone is a masterpiece. Safina identifies the importance of a sea ethic, one parallel to the land ethic humans are finally embracing. Safina's solutions are refreshing in a time when we doubt the government's ability to protect our resources objectively. Instead, Safina delegates protection to local peoples - those directly impacted by the issues and with vested interests in the outcomes. Through local actions, not government mandates, Safina makes the case that our heritage and resources can survive.

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