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The Unnatural History of the Sea


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  • Unknown Binding
  • ISBN-10: 1597261610
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597261616
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Callum Roberts is a marine scientist and conservationist at the University of York in England and author of The Unnatural History of the Sea. His book charts the effects of 1000 years of hunting and fishing on ocean life and won the 2008 Rachel Carson Environment Book Award of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Callum's research has revealed the extraordinary rise and fall of fisheries over the last 200 years, but also shows how life can make a remarkable comeback after protection is granted. His team at York provided the scientific case for the world's first network of high seas marine reserves in the North Atlantic that in 2010 placed nearly 300,000km2 of ocean under protection. Callum works with many environmental charities and is a WWF UK Ambassador, trustee of Seaweb, Fauna and Flora International and Blue Marine Foundation, and advisor to Save our Seas. His next book, The Ocean of Life, explores how the oceans are changing under human influence and will be published in 2012.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Carol M Horne on 10 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I came to this book after reading Sylvia Earle's books on Sea Change and Why the Planet is Blue....no guilt about plugging these at the same time. Eminently readable and full of historical flash back, putting the present era within the longer perspective. Callum Roberts also features in the DVD The End of the Line, and his cheery smiling face contrasts chillingly with and commensurately increases the import of his message. This book is a must read for all interested in marine life, the future of the oceans and the essential food chain within in. Fish are the basic food of a large proportion of the population of the planet; without fish the food crisis will enter nuclear proportions. The impact of factory fishing cannot be overstated - as a diver I'm always shocked when I enter the waters around the UK (Wales,usually) as I always feel 'something is missing'...it's the fish!! And not only the fish but the variety of life underwater....oh, and the startling increase in jellyfish. Can we eat these? And when you've read this, buy his next book, published this year - 'Ocean of Life'. I promise you if you have any capacity for reason you will listen to the science and concur that we need to act now. Informative and inspiring.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Murphy on 18 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
The tale and the facts backing it up are crushing.

I was overwhelmed by the numbers, the tonnage of animals that are estimated to have been taken . It is crushing to comprehend the scale of greed and the absoloute vandalism that we have perpertrated upon sea animals. For example killing many millions of one type of seals for their fur discarding their flesh, while killing as many million of other types of seals for the flesh and blubber while discarding their skins.

Its a history of shamefull rape and pillage over the last 1000 yrs, and everywhere throughout the centuaries the same thing, no fish left, no lessons learned, no strong legislation to protect the oceans, just incalculable damage to the web of life of the oceans and by consequence elsewhere aswell.

A book that makes you very angry and very sad at the same time, but so worth reading, the world has got to get to grips with over fishing! read this book and try get others to read it too
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Magnus Johnson on 14 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was initially put off picking this book up by the fact that it has a commendation from Greenpeace on the front cover. However it is well researched and wonderfully written with the authors own easy style interspersed with quotations from various well chosen historical sources. He really manages to bring home how much we have changed our marine environment through over-exploitation of its natural resources (fish, whales etc).

I have some issues with the suggestion by the author that management of the ocean is currently split between Marine Reserves (0.6%) and what he calls an "Extensive Exploitation Area" (the rest). Much of this area I am sure could be regarded as Managed Zones (or perhaps "not very well managed zones"). His suggestions for the future management of the sea concur with those of the green fin brigade who think that we need to completely ban fishing from most of the ocean. Many others would suggest that what we really need to do is ensure effective management over all of the ocean in a manner that works with fishermen rather than against them.

I found this to be a really well written and informative book. If you are at all interested in the sea and marine life you should read it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Henrik Lundsgart on 29 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is about the sea, but the same story could be told for mans exploitation of the land ecosystems. Only the inpoverishment occured earlier on land (Martin & Klein 1984). And this is the punchline of the book: shifting baselines is decieving the average spectator into believing, that nature wasn't much in the first place. This argument can still be heard. Why conserve nature if it wasn't much in the first place? The author of the book lists up the disasters and in doing so depicts the very much different nature there once was - and that can be again one day, if only we allow it. Please read this book.
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Format: Paperback
It's a very fact and eyewitness-account-filled book, but it ultimately paints a vivid picture. Roberts aims to expand the baseline back towards the dawn of commercial fishing, and tries to document the sea's more natural state as best he can. The writing of early observers is stilted, but the scope of the ocean's original wealth grows clear. Then we have tales of overfishing, which relate to technical developments and legal failures. It's far more about documentation than entertainment, but maybe that's what it takes to hammer home the horror of scraping the floor of every continental shelf and seamount down to flattened-out rubble, largely stripped of vegetation or "obstructive" coral and mollusk reefs. Finally, the rather difficult read gets richly rewarding as Roberts documents little miracles of recovery in spots around the world, where a reprieve from trawlers and purse seine nets allows patches of seabed to bloom again. Maybe the book has had some influence, because soon after it's publication the movement for vast new marine parks started to take off, with millions of square miles protected in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
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