Ever feel discouraged by the amount of bad news concerning our oceans? Maybe one should, at least a tiny bit. Every year brings more startling discoveries about declining species, the collapses of sea-dependent industries, and stories of calamity caused by human carelessness. Such bleakness should only give more reason to take notice of the success stories in marine conservation, however modest.
That’s the goal of 2013’s PBS program Saving the Ocean—to call our attention to the women and men who dedicate themselves to combating negative trends of the world’s ocean, and to the amazing solutions these individuals create. Carl Safina hosts the ten-part series (at 25 minutes per episode), taking viewers all over the world in search of conservation efforts that have paid off and had encouraging impacts on the environment.
Safina has an established career spreading awareness of the ocean’s plight, authoring six books that combine ecological discussion with that of surrounding human activities. He’s the ideal person to introduce the latest fronts in conservation to those unfamiliar, bringing an easygoing and inquisitive personality to the segments, as well as an impressive knowledge of the issues at hand.
The other stars of Saving the Ocean are fishermen, organizers, innovators and the like, who prove what a significant difference just a few conscientious and motivated people can make. In many cases, they appear to be the only forces standing between their native seas and unchecked, runaway exploitation of natural resources, making the question of what would come about in their absence a dreary thing to contemplate.
The series’ footage, which includes breathtaking views of underwater worlds both thriving and in ruin, proves in itself a compelling reason to watch. Shots of marine life inspire a great deal of reverence for these subjects, while simply getting to see coastal environments around the world helps bring viewers closer to new ecological and human realities.
Highlights of Saving the Ocean include:
Scourge of the Lionfish: Beginning as recently as 5-10 years ago, the invasive lionfish has wreaked havoc on the already imperiled coral reefs of the Caribbean. Native to the Pacific, the species was a popular aquarium fish which spread from captivity to greater and greater regions of the Atlantic Ocean, where prey doesn’t recognize it as a threat, and predators don’t feed on it. The same type of overfishing that has led to widespread species endangerment can help mitigate the problem, in this case.
Trinidad’s Turtle Giants: The leatherback sea turtle has endured for 100 million years on Earth, and now, if not for protection, it could disappear forever. In Trinidad, for many years, slaughtering the turtles that come ashore to lay eggs was the only way for some fishing families to sustain themselves, until activists stepped in. Now the leatherbacks are still an important asset to the locals, but for the tourism they bring.
River of Kings (Part 1) (Part 2): Parts of the Nisqually River of Washington, once a majestic home to plentiful salmon, were all but a lost cause after being rerouted by settlers, and being misused and polluted over time. More recently, restoration has been initiated in promising ways by various people, including the Nisqually Indians, who struggled hard against unfair laws that restricted their right to the major food source of their homeland. Solutions to bring back the salmon have come in a variety of forms from all around, and they have yielded surprising success.
The Sacred Island: In Zanzibar, education has led to culturally-enforced sustainable practices, even among fishing communities that struggle to make a living. Widespread knowledge of responsible resource management has been brought to the people largely in the form of religion, with local Islamic leaders emphasizing the teachings of the Quran which concern respecting the land and leading a non-wasteful life. Instead of being harshly punished, fishermen who disobey certain requirements are directed to their village heads for a talking-to.
All episodes can be watched on the PBS Video website.
Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.