Sunday, April 03, 2011

Death and life for Monterey Bay and beyond

Our ocean future is foretold in a new book about the coast of California, that crazy, annoying place that sets trends. It's death and renewal for ocean ecosystems and ocean economies.

First sea otters, then whales, and finally sardines fueled boom and bust economies that overturned people and ocean ecosystems. What elevates this story is the green economy that comes after the bust.

Monterey and the Cascadia coast to the north are lucky to preview this ocean future. It's a resilient bioregion with low population pressure that came late to development. And, fortunately for this story, it's a place where people thrive on change. So when faced with a decaying waterfront caused by a lack of sardines, it was only natural to invent the modern aquarium and ocean research institution. And, not coincidentally, to invent sustainable fisheries management once the sardines finally came back. California is showing the world how to ride ocean decline downwards and learn from the problem.

The positive changes described in this book make it a bit more optimistic than the grim predictions of Jeremy Jackson, the Bela Lugosi of ocean science, who focuses on what's disappearing from our oceans, and presumably gone forever.

The Death and Life of Monterey Bay is another new book that I'm reviewing without the benefit of having read it. But that's OK because I know the story well from living there, studying the ocean, and hearing author Steve Palumbi his version of the story in person.

On a personal level, few things make me homesick to leave the spectacular Swiss Alps, but the subject of this book stirs me greatly. A few years ago I lived and worked as a marine biologist in Monterey and the Sonoma coast just to the north, and I was married on Portugese Beach near Bodega Bay (photo at right). The Cascadia coast is calling...

BTW, don't forget to read Cascadia Times, the award-winning newspaper of the region starting at Monterey Bay and north to Alaska.

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