marine biology/oceanography

From: Howard Garrett (
Date: Tue May 15 2001 - 12:42:11 EDT

>Hi, I am a sophomore in high school in Ohio, and I am currently taking an
>advanced Biogenetics course. ...I was wondering if
>you could answer a few questions regarding oceanography and marine biology.
>First of all, what are some of the major ways in which ocean and whale
>studies are important and valuable to life on earth?

         These are extremely important questions about the future viability
of the oceans and therefore the natural life, including human life, on
planet Earth. Modern industrial society has conceptually separated itself
from the rhythms and forms of Life on Earth, especially in the oceans, for
possibly thousands of years. The oceans are the birthplace of life on
Earth, and abundant, diverse marine life forms remain essential as the
foundation of life on earth. Most of the human inhabitants of Earth are
struggling daily to survive and provide basic human needs for themselves
and their families and communities. Abstract concepts like "the rhythms and
forms of Life" fail to motivate concern and protective action in
comparison to the need to extract and exploit resources, and to commit any
destructive act to derive an income to pay for basic necessities. And yet
it is overexploitation and excessive consumption, compounded by
overpopulation, that is depleting and polluting the oceans to the point of
possibly disrupting the rhythms and processes of Life, above and below the
waves. In order to drastically alter the course of our economies, policies
and the billions of individual actions that are rapidly killing fundamental
marine life forms, to reduce overexploitation and pollution of the oceans,
people need to learn, understand and care about the inhabitants of the
oceans. Ocean and whale studies can provide the knowledge, stories and
images people can understand and respond to, to build and share a
commitment to protecting, restoring and nurturing marine life.

>What are the main threats to the ocean and its wild life?

         Overexploitation of every form of life in the oceans, from whaling
to overfishing to mining; boat and ship traffic causing pollution by noise
and chemicals, mostly fossil fuels; intentional or accidental dumping of
radioactive waste; shoreline and wetland destruction for industrial or
residential construction; runoff from industries and agriculture of
persistent pollutants like PCBs that disrupt hormonal systems of all forms
of marine life, especially whales and dolphins; undersea explorations that
use deafening seismic detonations; and military exercises that use powerful
sonars and explosions that rupture vital organs of marine life, especially
whales and dolphins.

>What are the main/daily pollutants that pose a threat?

         PCBs (still produced in Asia and other parts of the world, still
leaching from dumpsites throughout US waters); PAHs from auto brakes and
tires; dioxins, furans and heavy metals from pesticides, herbicides and a
variety of manufacturing industries; sewage outfall; solid waste disposal.

>What can we do to protect the ocean?

         Just as you are doing, ask the right questions, become aware,
learn where you can express your values most effectively.

>What kind of large-scale international projects exist right now that deal
>with ocean protection or just the ocean in general?

         Learn about solutions to destruction from Earth Policy Institute,
at, or from Natural Resources Defense Council, at, and from Ocean Futures at Also, most of
the major environmental foundations have recently realized that they have
ignored the oceans, and are now establishing marine protection grant
policies, spawning a great variety of projects worldwide.

>How great is the danger (if there is a danger at all) of islands
>disappearing due to global warming?

         Some coral atolls are already disappearing, and beach erosion is
increasing worldwide. Insurance companies are well aware of this and have
restructured premiums and policies accordingly.

>Also, what kind of new technology is being developed for oceanography and
>marine biology?

         Submersibles, both remotely and manually operated are becoming
more operational and accessible; remote video and audio feeds are being
installed worldwide. I'm sure there are new water quality testing and
biomass and biodiversity measuring devices and techniques being developed.

>Thank you very, very much for your time, and again, your answers will be
>extremely appreciated!
>Jenny PS- I apologize for the length of this letter!

         Not a problem! These are the most important issues we face in our
lifetimes, if we wish to have a living world for future inhabitants of all

Howard Garrett
Orca Conservancy
2403 So. North Bluff Rd.
Greenbank WA 98253
(360) 678-3451

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