CA - Gary Griggs, Our Ocean Backyard; Take time to focus on positives

These days the news coming from the ocean is usually anything but positive or encouraging, whether ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms and closed fishing seasons, ocean warming and coral reef bleaching, water quality decline, overfishing, loss of habitat, sea-level rise and shoreline erosion, there are a mind-numbing list of problems out there to be concerned about. These issues encouraged me a few years ago to look into the problems along our coastlines, which culminated in a book and also a class I teach, Coasts in Crisis – A Global Challenge.

But for me personally, being a teacher, writer, father and grandfather, I need to have hope, and I think of this as sober optimism. I don’t want to minimize or sugarcoat these concerns, but also believe that it’s important to recognize and take some comfort in success stories where we can find them, rather than being totally paralyzed with the bad news. There are countless dedicated individuals and many conservation organizations and groups working to improve the situation we find ourselves in today. This column is focused on some positive stories and good news.

The recovery of whale populations is one major success story, due in large part to a 1980s global moratorium on whale hunting. It may be difficult to believe, but right up to the time that the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed in the USA in 1972, there was still an active whaling station operating on the east side of San Francisco Bay at Richmond. In fact, some of those who were employed at the station are still around.

Although the North Atlantic right whale is critically endangered, most other species are slowly rebounding. The number of South Atlantic humpback whales was about 450 in the 1950s and the global estimates today are about 35,000 to 40,000. For large animals that produce only a single calf every two or more years after a 12-month pregnancy, this is a remarkable recovery. The numbers of blue, fin and sei whales are also growing globally.

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