World Ocean Census

Bookshelf: World Ocean Census

World Ocean Census: A Global Survey of Marine Life – Darlene Trew Crist & Gail Scowcroft

World Ocean Census
World Ocean Census

This is the second book I’ve read on the global Census of Marine Life, the first being Discoveries of the Census of Marine Life by Paul Snelgrove. I enjoyed this book far more, and found it much more accesible than Snelgrove’s book, which I think is of primary usefulness for the pages and pages of academic papers he cites at the end of each chapter. Not being an official ocean researcher per se, those didn’t interest me.

This book explains the census clearly and is well written (unlike Snelgrove’s efforts). The census takers sought to answer three questions:

  1. What lived in the oceans? To do this they used old restaurant menus, whaling ship logs, fishing records, and all and any sources that could shed light on marine biomass in the last 500 years (their chosen focus period, coinciding with the start of large scale fishing). I would have liked to read more about this part of the census – trawling through the logbooks of whaling vessels sounds fascinating!
  2. What lives in the ocean? For this part of the census they used all the cool toys, tags and tracking devices described in Discoveries of the Census of Marine Life.
  3. What will live in the ocean? The census takers sought to quantify man’s impact on the oceans, and to determine  how human interaction with the ocean – past, present and future – will impact the future health of our seas.

Interspersed with this information are magnificent photographs of some of the creatures discovered, and a few of the census takers at work. There are one or two human interest stories: for example, about the impressions formed by a school teacher from Utah who went to the Antarctic as a census volunteer for a month.

The authors explain the process of officially codifying the discovery of a new species, and how laborious it is. Despite the fact that they have an estimated 10,000 new creatures brought to light by the census, in the ten years since the census began fewer than 5% of them have been officially named, catalogued and accepted by science.

If you had to choose between this and Discoveries of the Census of Marine Life, choose this book. You can purchase the book here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise click here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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