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The Empty Ocean

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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 t 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. "


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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 t 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. "

30 review for The Empty Ocean

  1. 4 out of 5

    Eliel Lopez

    A bit dated but still very interesting. We all really need to do a far better job at being better stewards of our Earth and its' Oceans. A bit dated but still very interesting. We all really need to do a far better job at being better stewards of our Earth and its' Oceans.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fernleaf

    This is becoming an older book, first published in 2003, but for all that is still a worthwhile read for those interested in the history of humankind's immense exploitation of the sea. It is a mostly depressing read as the news is seldom good, and each chapter seems like the same story with only slightly different players. The book is broken down into chapters and sections that mostly each focus on a particular species or group of species that have been exploited or extirpated, giving a rapid-fi This is becoming an older book, first published in 2003, but for all that is still a worthwhile read for those interested in the history of humankind's immense exploitation of the sea. It is a mostly depressing read as the news is seldom good, and each chapter seems like the same story with only slightly different players. The book is broken down into chapters and sections that mostly each focus on a particular species or group of species that have been exploited or extirpated, giving a rapid-fire breakdown of their history with humans supplemented with tidbits of natural history. Due to the immense number of place names, dates, catch numbers and species names the text can be very dry in places, and access to a computer or atlas is recommended for those lacking an encyclopedic knowledge of the world's far-flung islands. Some illustrations pepper the text, but especially for some of the little-known species discussed or mentioned, additional internet research makes the book more meaningful. The first two-thirds of the book is devoted to the alarming decline in ocean species, from the more well-known examples of cod and tuna to less considered species like the extinct stellar's sea cow, the diminutive menhaden, or the plight of seahorses. The whole thing reads like a treatise on man's inability to learn from his mistakes, and the expected recounting of fisheries collapse, whale hunting, and seal clubbing are interspersed with heartbreaking instances of even more senseless losses. The last of the great auks, the suffocation of sea lion cubs in introduced rabbit burrows, and the fact that Chinese river dolphins were still alive when this book was written. The end of the book discusses larger ecological threats, primarily the fate of coral reefs and the threats of introduced species, and then goes on to consider the future and briefly discuss measures that might make a real difference (considering that decades or in some cases centuries of fisheries management has not been particularly successful.) It's not all doom and gloom however, and there are enough success stories scattered throughout to stave off complete despair. Given how long ago this was published and what else you may have read you may know more than the author did about certain things. The chapters on whales were particularly dire, and 16 years later many of the whale species do seem to be making a better recovery than predicted here.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Louisa Dassow

    Written in 2003, this book still carries a huge punch. As a history of man's impact on the ocean and its dwellers the detail is unerring and starkly damning. Shockingly repetitive tales of colonial conquest. Its message overwhelmingly relevant today. Written in 2003, this book still carries a huge punch. As a history of man's impact on the ocean and its dwellers the detail is unerring and starkly damning. Shockingly repetitive tales of colonial conquest. Its message overwhelmingly relevant today.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    A wonderfully well-written, yet horrifying book about man's catastrophic influence on the ocean and its wildlife. I've read various articles on this topic, but seeing various species covered in a series of chapters is very sobering. This book has been on my to-read list for several years, and I can't imagine things have gotten better in the interim. The author talks about widespread overfishing, dredge nets, coral bleaching, and invasive species; but there is no mention of deoxygenated zones or A wonderfully well-written, yet horrifying book about man's catastrophic influence on the ocean and its wildlife. I've read various articles on this topic, but seeing various species covered in a series of chapters is very sobering. This book has been on my to-read list for several years, and I can't imagine things have gotten better in the interim. The author talks about widespread overfishing, dredge nets, coral bleaching, and invasive species; but there is no mention of deoxygenated zones or floating trash deposits, so I assume these must be newer phenomena. A depressing immersion in the sad effects of man's greed. The text is slightly repetitive (as if he included previously published material), but the author is also an artist and has included beautifully rendered pen and ink depictions of many of the animals he discusses. Not uplifting, by any means, but incredibly thought-provoking.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amy Bailey

    This book is infinitely heart-wrenching and frightening. It makes my stomach turn to read just exactly how irresponsible we people can be and there's no end to it. I did feel this book was a bit dated. A lot has happened since 2003 and most of the studies cited were from 2001 or before. It would be interesting to see how Mr. Ellis would edit this book in today's world political climate. This is scary... too scary. This book is infinitely heart-wrenching and frightening. It makes my stomach turn to read just exactly how irresponsible we people can be and there's no end to it. I did feel this book was a bit dated. A lot has happened since 2003 and most of the studies cited were from 2001 or before. It would be interesting to see how Mr. Ellis would edit this book in today's world political climate. This is scary... too scary.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    A good overview on the dire condition of our ocean life. It goes over past extinctions as well as current ocean animals that are highly threatened. Most of the Earth's large fish species are dangerously depleted due to industrial overfishing and all ocean life is at risk. It's a fast and informative read. A good overview on the dire condition of our ocean life. It goes over past extinctions as well as current ocean animals that are highly threatened. Most of the Earth's large fish species are dangerously depleted due to industrial overfishing and all ocean life is at risk. It's a fast and informative read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cher

    Excellent book! Sadly it is outdated at this point... but if things were this bad 12 years ago.... how much worse are they now? Also this book made me very depressed each night before bed... there were things I had no idea of... I’d gasp out loud at times as I read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

    The Empty Ocean makes for compelling (and frightening) reading. We have always looked at the ocean as an inexhaustible resource, but Ellis makes clear we are dangerously close to killing off a number of species, and we have no idea what the consequences will be when they're gone. The Empty Ocean makes for compelling (and frightening) reading. We have always looked at the ocean as an inexhaustible resource, but Ellis makes clear we are dangerously close to killing off a number of species, and we have no idea what the consequences will be when they're gone.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Conrad

    I started reading this a year or two ago but it made me hyperventilate. I'm finishing it now, and it's still scary as shit. I started reading this a year or two ago but it made me hyperventilate. I'm finishing it now, and it's still scary as shit.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    A must read for anyone concerned with human impacts on the planet. One of those life-changing books that empower you with information you need to make decisions as a consumer of seafood products.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    This should be required reading for everyone.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Lots of interesting information about the ocean, and its past present and future, specifically about some species that have been most affected by human impacts.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Grindy Stone

    Sobering account of mankind's rape of the oceans, cleverly told through mini-essays of species most stressed by homo sapiens. Required reading for trivia nuts and environmentalists. Sobering account of mankind's rape of the oceans, cleverly told through mini-essays of species most stressed by homo sapiens. Required reading for trivia nuts and environmentalists.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    A comprehensive review of the extents of overharvesting that we humans are perpetrating in the marine environment.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

    Absolutely fascinating and eyeopening.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

    This book reads like a species by species catalog of destruction. About 90 pages focus on the various types of seals, otters and sea lions. Each species gets it's history of depletion, through many of these mammals occupy the same regions and were largely exterminated at about the same time by about the same hunters. Fish get about 80 pages, whales 42, sea turtles 25, sea birds 4, and coral reefs 25 pages. Overall, the tales of butchery get repetitious, but aspects of each story are illuminating This book reads like a species by species catalog of destruction. About 90 pages focus on the various types of seals, otters and sea lions. Each species gets it's history of depletion, through many of these mammals occupy the same regions and were largely exterminated at about the same time by about the same hunters. Fish get about 80 pages, whales 42, sea turtles 25, sea birds 4, and coral reefs 25 pages. Overall, the tales of butchery get repetitious, but aspects of each story are illuminating. For example, I never knew that before the 1860s, whalers could take only slow whales that could be chased in rowboats with hand-thrown harpoons. Only after 1868, when a Norwegian inventor devised the exploding grenade harpoon fired by a cannon, did whalers become capable of catching the fastest whales such as the blues. The book also has good accounts of the popular protest movements to stop the plunder of seals, swordfish or whales. In some cases, Ellis points to encouraging recoveries of animals that had been slaughtered to the brink of extinction, as in the case of elephant seas in California, who have been loitering on the Pebble Beach golf course.

  17. 4 out of 5

    David Ward

    The Empty Ocean: Plundering the World's Marine Life by Richard Ellis (Island Press / Shearwater Books 2003) (577.7) (3468).Written in 2003, this book argues that humans represent the biggest danger to the world's oceans. Author Richard Ellis comes to the conclusion that if humans will simply (1) quit dumping putrid pollutants into the sea, (2) rein in the most egregious overfishing practices, and (3) establish and rigidly enforce certain “No Fishing” zones, then the ocean will heal itself. I hop The Empty Ocean: Plundering the World's Marine Life by Richard Ellis (Island Press / Shearwater Books 2003) (577.7) (3468).Written in 2003, this book argues that humans represent the biggest danger to the world's oceans. Author Richard Ellis comes to the conclusion that if humans will simply (1) quit dumping putrid pollutants into the sea, (2) rein in the most egregious overfishing practices, and (3) establish and rigidly enforce certain “No Fishing” zones, then the ocean will heal itself. I hope he is right.The balance of the text consists of chapter-long tales about particular fish (e.g., cod, tuna, broadbilled swordfish) or classes of fish, mammals, and reptiles which were so systematically plundered that the fisheries have been hunted past the point of recovery ( e.g., whales, sharks, sea turtles).How sad. My rating: 7/10, finished 10/1/20.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Avana

    Whole passsges in this book are lifted word for word from Robert Kunzig's "Mapping the Deep" Whole passsges in this book are lifted word for word from Robert Kunzig's "Mapping the Deep"

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jon Wlasiuk

    Organized by species, The Empty Ocean provides a primer on the loss of sea life with a focus on the Atlantic.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    The book is a bit dated, but still contains a lot of interesting history about the various fisheries and impacts on different forms of sea life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kim Zinkowski

    A species by species compendium of the destruction that man has caused...and continues to do so.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Guertin

    This book contains a vast amount of information on the plight of marine animals, but it is presented in a very dry manner. The first half of the book was mostly information about fish, and I found this part of the book to be pretty boring. It got better during the second half, which began to focus on marine mammals, sea turtles, coral reefs, etc.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Claire Francisco

    I got this book after watching the documentary "The End of the Line." It was a sobering read, although I must admit that it was also written in a very dry style that didn't allow itself to be read in chunks for long periods of time. I got this book after watching the documentary "The End of the Line." It was a sobering read, although I must admit that it was also written in a very dry style that didn't allow itself to be read in chunks for long periods of time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anne Fontaine

    Please see my review at http://annefontaine.wordpress.com/201... Let me know you stopped by by leaving a comment; I'd love to know your thoughts on this subject. Thank you! Anne Please see my review at http://annefontaine.wordpress.com/201... Let me know you stopped by by leaving a comment; I'd love to know your thoughts on this subject. Thank you! Anne

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This book was just never able to grab me. I struggled to finished it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    As heard in the Science Times podcast. As heard in the Science Times podcast.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Snyder

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ginger

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kari

  30. 5 out of 5

    Efthalia

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