From rocky coves at Mendocino and Monterey to San Diego’s reefs, abalone have held a cherished place in California culture for millennia. Prized for iridescent shells and delectable meat, these unique shellfish inspired indigenous artisans, bohemian writers, California cuisine, and the popular sport of skin diving, but also became a highly coveted commercial commodity. Mistakenly regarded as an inexhaustible seafood, abalone ultimately became vulnerable to overfishing and early impacts of climate change.
As the first and only comprehensive history of these once abundant but now tragically imperiled shellfish, Abalone guides the reader through eras of discovery, exploitation, scientific inquiry, fierce disputes between sport and commercial divers, near-extinction, and determined recovery efforts. Combining rich cultural and culinary history with hard-minded marine science, grassroots activism, and gritty politics, Ann Vileisis chronicles the plight of California’s abalone species and the growing biological awareness that has become crucial to conserve these rare animals into the future.
Abalone reveals the challenges of reckoning with past misunderstandings, emerging science, and political intransigence, while underscoring the vulnerability of wild animals to human appetites and environmental change. An important contribution to the emerging field of marine environmental history, this is a must-read for scientists, conservationists, environmental historians, and all who remember abalone fondly.
It all started in 1965 with a guy riding a whale. The guy was Flip Nicklin’s father, Chuck, and the whale was an unlucky Bryde’s Whale that had gotten caught up in some anchor line. Hoping to free the whale, Chuck and some friends took their boat as near as they could, and, just before they cut it loose, Chuck posed astride it for a photo.
That image, carried on wire services nationwide, became a sensation and ultimately changed the life of Chuck’s young son, Flip. In the decades since that day, Flip Nicklin has made himself into the world’s premier cetacean photographer. It’s no exaggeration to say that his photos, published in such venues as National Geographic and distributed worldwide, have virtually defined these graceful, powerful creatures in the mind of the general public—even as they helped open new ground in the field of marine mammalogy.
Among Giants tells the story of Nicklin’s life and career on the high seas, from his first ill-equipped shoots in the mid-1970s through his long association with the National Geographic Society to the present, when he is one of the founders of Whale Trust, a nonprofit conservation and research group. Nicklin is equal parts photographer, adventurer, self-trained scientist, and raconteur, and Among Giants reflects all those sides, matching breathtaking images to firsthand accounts of their making, and highlighting throughout the importance of conservation and new advances in our understanding of whale behavior. With Nicklin as our guide, we see not just whales but also our slowly growing understanding of their hidden lives, as well as the evolution of underwater photography—and the stunning clarity and drama that can be captured when a determined, daring diver is behind the lens.
Humpbacks, narwhals, sperm whales, orcas—these and countless other giants of the ocean parade through these pages, spouting, breaching, singing, and raising their young. Nicklin’s photographs bring us so completely into the underwater world of whales that we can’t help but feel awe, while winning, personal accounts of his adventures remind us of what it’s like to be a lone diver sharing their sea.
For anyone who has marveled at the majesty of whales in the wild, Among Giants is guaranteed to be inspiring, even moving—its unmatched images of these glorious beings an inescapable reminder of our responsibility as stewards of the ocean.
Coastal Alert explains how citizens can protect coastal resources from the damaging effects of offshore oil drilling.
In The Empty Ocean, acclaimed author and artist Richard Ellis tells the story of our continued plunder of life in the sea and weighs the chances for its recovery. Through fascinating portraits of a wide array of creatures, he introduces us to the many forms of sea life that humans have fished, hunted, and collected over the centuries, from charismatic whales and dolphins to the lowly menhaden, from sea turtles to cod, tuna, and coral.
Rich in history, anecdote, and surprising fact, Richard Ellis’s descriptions bring to life the natural history of the various species, the threats they face, and the losses they have suffered. Killing has occurred on a truly stunning scale, with extinction all too often the result, leaving a once-teeming ocean greatly depleted. But the author also finds instances of hope and resilience, of species that have begun to make remarkable comebacks when given the opportunity.
Written with passion and grace, and illustrated with Richard Ellis’s own drawings, The Empty Ocean brings to a wide audience a compelling view of the damage we have caused to life in the sea and what we can do about it. "
A fascinating natural history of an incredibly curious substance.
“Preternaturally hardened whale dung” is not the first image that comes to mind when we think of perfume, otherwise a symbol of glamour and allure. But the key ingredient that makes the sophisticated scent linger on the skin is precisely this bizarre digestive by-product—ambergris. Despite being one of the world’s most expensive substances (its value is nearly that of gold and has at times in history been triple it), ambergris is also one of the world’s least known. But with this unusual and highly alluring book, Christopher Kemp promises to change that by uncovering the unique history of ambergris.
A rare secretion produced only by sperm whales, which have a fondness for squid but an inability to digest their beaks, ambergris is expelled at sea and floats on ocean currents for years, slowly transforming, before it sometimes washes ashore looking like a nondescript waxy pebble. It can appear almost anywhere but is found so rarely, it might as well appear nowhere. Kemp’s journey begins with an encounter on a New Zealand beach with a giant lump of faux ambergris—determined after much excitement to nothing more exotic than lard—that inspires a comprehensive quest to seek out ambergris and its story. He takes us from the wild, rocky New Zealand coastline to Stewart Island, a remote, windswept island in the southern seas, to Boston and Cape Cod, and back again. Along the way, he tracks down the secretive collectors and traders who populate the clandestine modern-day ambergris trade.
Floating Gold is an entertaining and lively history that covers not only these precious gray lumps and those who covet them, but presents a highly informative account of the natural history of whales, squid, ocean ecology, and even a history of the perfume industry. Kemp’s obsessive curiosity is infectious, and eager readers will feel as though they have stumbled upon a precious bounty of this intriguing substance.
The management of coastal and ocean fisheries is highly contentious. Industry interests focus on maximizing catches while conservationists and marine scientists have become increasingly concerned about dramatic declines in fish stocks and the health of ecosystems. Besides attempting to mediate among these interests, government agencies have pursued their own agendas, which have often lagged behind shifts in scientific understanding and public attitudes about the productivity of the oceans and uses of marine wildlife.
From Abundance to Scarcity examines the historical evolution of U.S. fisheries policy and institutions from the late 19th century to the present day, with an emphasis on changes since World War II. Based on archival research and interviews with dozens of key players in marine policymaking, it traces the thinking, legislation, mandates, and people that have shaped the various agencies governing fisheries in the United States. The book:
Global Marine Biological Diversity presents the most up-to-date information and view on the challenge of conserving the living sea and how that challenge can be met.
Trundling along in essentially the same form for some 220 million years, turtles have seen dinosaurs come and go, mammals emerge, and humankind expand its dominion. Is it any wonder the persistent reptile bested the hare? In this engaging book physiologist Donald Jackson shares a lifetime of observation of this curious creature, allowing us a look under the shell of an animal at once so familiar and so strange.
Here we discover how the turtle’s proverbial slowness helps it survive a long, cold winter under ice. How the shell not only serves as a protective home but also influences such essential functions as buoyancy control, breathing, and surviving remarkably long periods without oxygen, and how many other physiological features help define this unique animal. Jackson offers insight into what exactly it’s like to live inside a shell—to carry the heavy carapace on land and in water, to breathe without an expandable ribcage, to have sex with all that body armor intervening.
Along the way we also learn something about the process of scientific discovery—how the answer to one question leads to new questions, how a chance observation can change the direction of study, and above all how new research always builds on the previous work of others. A clear and informative exposition of physiological concepts using the turtle as a model organism, the book is as interesting for what it tells us about scientific investigation as it is for its deep and detailed understanding of how the enduring turtle “works.”
Other than that it tastes delicious with butter, what do you know about the knobbily-armoured, scarlet creature staring back at you from your fancy dinner plate? From ocean to stock pot, there are two sides to every animal story. For instance, since there are species of lobsters without claws, how exactly do you define a lobster? And how did a pauper’s food transform into a meal synonymous with a luxurious splurge? To answer these questions on behalf of lobster the animal is Richard J. King, a former fishmonger and commercial lobsterman, who has chronicled the creature’s long natural history.
Part of the Animal series, King’s Lobster takes us on a journey through the history, biology, and culture of lobsters, including the creature’s economic and environmental status worldwide. He describes the evolution of technologies to capture these creatures and addresses the ethics of boiling them alive. Along the way, King also explores the salacious lobster palaces of the 1920s, the animal’s thousand-year status as an aphrodisiac, and how the lobster has inspired numerous artists, writers, and thinkers including Aristotle, Dickens, Thoreau, Dalí, and Woody Allen.
Whether you want to liberate lobsters from their supermarket tanks or crack open their claws, this book is an essential read, describing the human connection to the lobster from his ocean home to the dinner table.
Like many coral specialists fifteen years ago, J. E. N. Veron thought Australia's Great Barrier Reef was impervious to climate change. "Owned by a prosperous country and accorded the protection it deserves, it would surely not go the way of the Amazon rain forest or the parklands of Africa, but would endure forever. That is what I thought once, but I think it no longer." This book is Veron's Silent Spring for the world's coral reefs.
Veron presents the geological history of the reef, the biology of coral reef ecosystems, and a primer on what we know about climate change. He concludes that the Great Barrier Reef and, indeed, most coral reefs will be dead from mass bleaching and irreversible acidification within the coming century unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed. If we don't have the political will to confront the plight of the world's reefs, he argues, current processes already in motion will become unstoppable, bringing on a mass extinction the world has not seen for 65 million years.
Our species has cracked its own genetic code and sent representatives of its kind to the moon--we can certainly save the world's reefs if we want to. But to achieve this goal, we must devote scientific expertise and political muscle to the development of green technologies that will dramatically reduce greenhouse emissions and reverse acidification of the oceans.
A sleek hunter of the seas, the shark has struck fear into the hearts of men since the days of the first fishermen. Dean Crawford now explores here the long relationship between shark and man, revealing that behind the fearsome caricature is a complex animal that deserves a thoughtful reconsideration.
With a lineage stretching back over 100 million years, the shark has evolved into 350 different species, from the great white to the pike-bearing goblin to the tiny cookie-cutter. Crawford compiles here a fascinating narrative that analyzes how and why the animal looms large in our cultural psyche. While sharks have played a prominent part in religion and mythology, they are more commonly perceived as deadly predators—in such films as Jaws and Dr. No—or as symbols of natural violence, as in Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream. Shark ultimately argues, however, that our ill-informed emotional responses, spurred by such representations, have encouraged the wholesale slaughter of sharks—and our ignorance endangers the very existence of the shark today.
Both a celebration of their lethal beauty and plea for their conservation, Shark urges us to shed our fears and appreciate the magnificence of this majestic animal.
The waters around Australia, the world’s smallest continent, are home to the greatest diversity of sharks and rays on Earth. Fully 100 of these sea creatures (along with their little-known relatives, the chimaerids) have been named or described since the first edition of this book—the biggest revision of the Class Chondrichthyes since the time of Linneaus. This second edition of Sharks and Rays of Australia brings more than 300 of these species to life in newly commissioned, full-color illustrations.
Here, in precisely painted detail, are the weird silvery ghost shark and the remarkably camouflaged ornate wobbegong; spurdogs and swell sharks; the primitive frilled shark and the blacktip, a fast swimmer capable of leaping out of the water like a dolphin. Peter Last and John Stevens review the major shake-ups in the elasmobranch family tree—sorting out, for instance, dogfishes and skates—and include updated family keys, the latest information about species ranges, and new distribution maps. Extensively revised species descriptions reflect additional fisheries and newly gleaned life history and biological information—all essential to conservation efforts as sharks die in commercial bycatches and end up on restaurant menus. An essential tool for conservation biologists trying to save threatened sharks, now under siege worldwide, this marvelous volume will also appeal to fish biologists, divers, naturalists, commercial and recreational fishermen, and anyone with an appreciation for these ancient evolutionary survivors.
From the Bible’s “Canst thou raise leviathan with a hook?” to Captain Ahab’s “From Hell’s heart I stab at thee!,” from the trials of Job to the legends of Sinbad, whales have breached in the human imagination as looming figures of terror, power, confusion, and mystery.
In the twentieth century, however, our understanding of and relationship to these superlatives of creation underwent some astonishing changes, and with The Sounding of the Whale, D. Graham Burnett tells the fascinating story of the transformation of cetaceans from grotesque monsters, useful only as wallowing kegs of fat and fertilizer, to playful friends of humanity, bellwethers of environmental devastation, and, finally, totems of the counterculture in the Age of Aquarius. When Burnett opens his story, ignorance reigns: even Nature was misclassifying whales at the turn of the century, and the only biological study of the species was happening in gruesome Arctic slaughterhouses. But in the aftermath of World War I, an international effort to bring rational regulations to the whaling industry led to an explosion of global research—and regulations that, while well-meaning, were quashed, or widely flouted, by whaling nations, the first shot in a battle that continues to this day. The book closes with a look at the remarkable shift in public attitudes toward whales that began in the 1960s, as environmental concerns and new discoveries about whale behavior combined to make whales an object of sentimental concern and public adulation.
A sweeping history, grounded in nearly a decade of research, The Sounding of the Whale tells a remarkable story of how science, politics, and simple human wonder intertwined to transform the way we see these behemoths from below.
Much of what you’ve heard about plastic pollution may be wrong. Instead of a great island of trash, the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of manmade debris spread over hundreds of miles of sea—more like a soup than a floating garbage dump. Recycling is more complicated than we were taught: less than nine percent of the plastic we create is reused, and the majority ends up in the ocean. And plastic pollution isn’t confined to the open ocean: it’s in much of the air we breathe and the food we eat.
In Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis, journalist Erica Cirino brings readers on a globe-hopping journey to meet the scientists and activists telling the real story of the plastic crisis. From the deck of a plastic-hunting sailboat with a disabled engine, to the labs doing cutting-edge research on microplastics and the chemicals we ingest, Cirino paints a full picture of how plastic pollution is threatening wildlife and human health. Thicker Than Water reveals that the plastic crisis is also a tale of environmental injustice, as poorer nations take in a larger share of the world’s trash, and manufacturing chemicals threaten predominantly Black and low-income communities.
There is some hope on the horizon, with new laws banning single-use items and technological innovations to replace plastic in our lives. But Cirino shows that we can only fix the problem if we face its full scope and begin to repair our throwaway culture. Thicker Than Water is an eloquent call to reexamine the systems churning out waves of plastic waste.
Touching This Leviathan asks how we might come to know the unknowable—in this case, whales, animals so large yet so elusive, revealing just a sliver of back, a glimpse of a fluke, or a split-second breach before diving away.
Whale books often sit within disciplinary silos. Touching This Leviathan starts a conversation among them. Drawing on biology, theology, natural history, literature, and writing studies, Peter Wayne Moe offers a deep dive into the alluring and impalpable mysteries of Earth’s largest mammal.
Entertaining, thought-provoking, and swimming with intelligence and wit, Touching is Leviathan is creative nonfiction that gestures toward science and literary criticism as it invites readers into the belly of the whale.
In 1980 a group of scientists censusing marine mammals in the Bay of Fundy was astonished at the sight of 25 right whales. It was, one scientist later recalled, “like finding a brontosaurus in the backyard.” Until that time, scientists believed the North Atlantic right whale was extinct or nearly so. The sightings electrified the research community, spurring a quarter century of exploration, which is documented here.
The authors present our current knowledge about the biology and plight of right whales, including their reproduction, feeding, genetics, and endocrinology, as well as fatal run-ins with ships and fishing gear. Employing individual identifications, acoustics, and population models, Scott Kraus, Rosalind Rolland, and their colleagues present a vivid history of this animal, from a once commercially hunted commodity to today’s life-threatening challenges of urban waters.
Hunted for nearly a millennium, right whales are now being killed by the ocean commerce that supports our modern way of life. This book offers hope for the eventual salvation of this great whale.
Relating his experiences caring for endangered whales, a veterinarian and marine scientist shows we can all share in the salvation of these imperiled animals.
The image most of us have of whalers includes harpoons and intentional trauma. Yet eating commercially caught seafood leads to whales’ entanglement and slow death in rope and nets, and the global shipping routes that bring us readily available goods often lead to death by collision. We—all of us—are whalers, marine scientist and veterinarian Michael J. Moore contends. But we do not have to be.
Drawing on over forty years of fieldwork with humpback, pilot, fin, and, in particular, North Atlantic right whales—a species whose population has declined more than 20 percent since 2017—Moore takes us with him as he performs whale necropsies on animals stranded on beaches, in his independent research alongside whalers using explosive harpoons, and as he tracks injured whales to deliver sedatives. The whales’ plight is a complex, confounding, and disturbing one. We learn of existing but poorly enforced conservation laws and of perennial (and often failed) efforts to balance the push for fisheries profit versus the protection of endangered species caught by accident.
But despite these challenges, Moore’s tale is an optimistic one. He shows us how technologies for ropeless fishing and the acoustic tracking of whale migrations make a dramatic difference. And he looks ahead with hope as our growing understanding of these extraordinary creatures fuels an ever-stronger drive for change.
For more information on Moore’s book and research, please visit his webpage at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Despite a decades-long international moratorium on commercial whaling, one fleet has continued to hunt and kill whales in the waters surrounding Antarctica. Refusing to let this defiance go unchallenged, the environmental organization Greenpeace began dispatching expeditions to the region in an effort to intercept the whalers and use nonviolent means to stop their lethal practice.
Over the past decade, Kieran Mulvaney led four such expeditions as a campaigner and coordinator. In The Whaling Season, he recounts those voyages in all their drama, disappointments, strain, and elation, giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at the hazards and triumphs of life as an environmental activist on the high seas. The author also explores the larger struggles underlying the expeditions, drawing on the history of commercial whaling and Antarctic exploration, the development of Greenpeace, and broader scientific and political efforts to conserve marine life. He presents a rich portrait of the current struggles and makes an impassioned plea for protection of some of the world’s most spectacular creatures.
For armchair adventurers, polar enthusiasts, and anyone concerned about marine conservation and continued hunting of the world’s whales, The Whaling Season is an engrossing and informative tale of adventure set in one of the Earth’s last great wilderness areas.
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