Saving the Ocean with Carl Safina

Series: Saving the Ocean

Saving the Ocean with Carl Safina
Saving the Ocean with Carl Safina

I know Carl Safina as the author of several wonderful books about the ocean – The View from Lazy Point being the most recent one. I was surprised to discover that he has also ventured into television presenting, and this PBS series (so far a one-off) is the result.

Saving the Ocean showcases, in half hour segments, communities and initiatives that are successfully making a positive difference to ocean environments. Safina visits Baja in Mexico (grey whales are thriving there), Washington State (rivers are being rehabilitated there, for wild salmon), and Trinidad (where leatherback turtles are being protected). An episode where the leaders of the Muslim community on a Tanzanian island are taking the lead in advocating for environmental protection was particularly moving. Tony and I both found it immensely encouraging, and relieving, to see places where a balance is being struck between human requirements – for fish, protein, survival – and the need to take care of the sea.

A few times I felt that an excessive amount of enthusiasm was being displayed for a recovery that isn’t that spectacular – particularly in the episodes on New England cod. After hours of fishing, two or three tiny fish are caught. This in an area where you could lower a bucket and raise it up full of fish a couple of hundred years ago. The cod are still gone – no matter how much you smile about it.

Safina is an enthusiastic fisherman, and devotes two episodes to an artisanal sword fishery on Georges Bank. The fishermen harpoon the swordfish, collecting no bycatch. While I understand that this is a good way in which to target the species, I wasn’t convinced that there were enough swordfish to justify catching them at all, and I think the thrill of the hunt got in the way of telling the real story here.

The final episode in the series is about lionfish, and describes some of the innovative ways that the dive industry in the Atlantic is helping to control numbers of this native Pacific interloper.

Safina is an engaging host, refreshingly natural, like a slightly rumpled professor of an outdoorsy subject. The production values in this series aren’t fantastic, but this is made up for by the sheer good news of the stories told in each episode.

You can get the DVDs here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise here or here. Read a bit more about the show here, if you’re not convinced.

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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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