Unpalatable Oceans?

Here’s a little thought that struck me earlier today which I initially wanted to turn into a comic for the Business As Usual 2.0 project, somehow. I’ve been playing with it and no matter how I try to arrange it, there doesn’t seem a clear method of constructing it concise enough for such a medium.

So instead I’ll just write it out.

The plight of the ocean is heart breaking. Overfishing is a subject that is far too overlooked. Basically, I envisioned a world where all palatable species had been removed. With only inedible species remaining and many newly open niches available to these species, is it possible that by the year 3000, we will have yet a new ocean, rich with life – all of which are nasty if not toxic?

And many believe the ocean to be a hostile place today!

*Do excuse my taking this situation so light-heartedly. When we have bozo’s like Andrew Bolt telling his sizable readership what he thinks of ecology, when genuine and evidence-based discussions are continually stunted by poll-driven leadership, it’s hard not to have moments of pessimism.


8 thoughts on “Unpalatable Oceans?

  1. It’s standard evolutionary practice, isn’t it? In any arms race, the best equipped to survive selection pressure will propagate. So we’ll have an ocean with lots of little fish, lots of ugly fish and lots of poisonous fish. That’s if humanity doesn’t also shift its target species from the current ‘big and juicy’ paradigm to ‘anything with protein in it’…


    1. Anything we remove from the ocean is depriving something of protein and nutrients – nothing is wasted (except by us). There are a number of measures that we could take to change how we fish to become more sustainable. Unfortunately it’s still not popular – but it only give us the opportunity to inform! 🙂


  2. Well, the ecology is pretty clear and it’s just as M.I. says (and worse). Overfishing yes; but adding CO2 to the atmosphere (fossil fuel burning) acidifies the oceans and is destroying the coral reefs which are not just pretty but are vital habitats to many species. Secondly, nutrients from urban and agricultural runoff (nitrogen, phosphorus). The over-fertilization of coastal waters creates algal blooms and the bacteria which feed on this biomass deplete oxygen from the waters. These “dead zones” are off limits to most fish — but not to some nasties like jellyfish and blood-worms that gain dominance.
    See: http://bit.ly/bghFw0 for more information.


    1. I posted a video just recently about the recent coral bleaching event that occurred north of Aust and I’ve started hearing concern about the Caribbean coral as well (although I’ve not read anything yet).
      The dead zone problem is as appalling and under-appreciated as the great garbage patches – simply further evidence of “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. I’ve heard a bit about massive algal blooms in the Atlantic (although again, I must admit that this is only from skim-reading a couple articles and the abstract of a paper a while ago).
      Of all biospheres, I worry that ignorance alone makes the situations in the oceans the most at peril (woody forests are also certainly up there, but do get slightly more attention).
      The idea in this post, which could potential be extrapolated outward is that I fear that by over-exploiting useful biology, we run the risk (long term) of life evolving to better counteract anthropogenic pressure – ie. becoming hostile and unusable. You provide excellent examples of this with the jellyfish and blood-worms. In my home state (and one of my major interests) weed ecology is another classic example (granted that the occasional weed is useful – hence why they were introduced, but they are not so useful that they equate to the services lost) and a sad case with river dolphins (we have one of the few river dolphin species in the world living in the port river – a beautiful little dolphin species which my Dad has photographed on numerous occasions – and yet we pretty much use the water way as a toilet).
      Hank, would you know of any studies that have looked into the evolutionary potential due to new niche exploitation in the wake of increasing extinction rates? It would be an interesting/sobering subject.


  3. To introduce a more cheerful note, Tim, did you see the items about the Port River dolphins teaching each other to tailwalk. Apparently one of them had to go up to one of the dolphin places in Queensland for some reason. Picked it up from the trained entertainer dolphins up there. Taught one of her mates and now they’re both teaching their babies. So now the “river”, better described as an improving sewer, is acquiring a group of self-trained dolphin tricksters.


    1. Dolphins are amazing creatures – some pods even use tools (such as sea sponges to protect their noses while looking for food) and seem to decorate themselves for no obvious reason. That they teach each other indicates a fairly complex communication as well. My Dad’s told be about them tail walking and has taken numerous photos of them doing it.
      Fingers crossed on the “improving” sewer. We have such a wonderful waterway that we totally abuse.


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