The Empty Ocean

The Empty Ocean

Plundering the World's Marine Life

Book - 2003
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In The Empty Ocean, acclaimed author and artist Richard Ellis tells the story of our continued plunder of life in the sea and weighs the chances for its recovery. Through fascinating portraits of a wide array of creatures, he introduces us to the many forms of sea life that humans have fished, hunted, and collected over the centuries, from charismatic whales and dolphins to the lowly menhaden, from sea turtles to cod, tuna, and coral.

Rich in history, anecdote, and surprising fact, Richard Ellis’s descriptions bring to life the natural history of the various species, the threats they face, and the losses they have suffered. Killing has occurred on a truly stunning scale, with extinction all too often the result, leaving a once-teeming ocean greatly depleted. But the author also finds instances of hope and resilience, of species that have begun to make remarkable comebacks when given the opportunity.

Written with passion and grace, and illustrated with Richard Ellis’s own drawings,The Empty Ocean brings to a wide audience a compelling view of the damage we have caused to life in the sea and what we can do about it. "

Baker & Taylor
Explains the detrimental affects that commercial fishing and other depeletions of marine wildlife have on ocean ecology, and suggests remedies for the growing problem.

Book News
Ellis, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, describes the losses the world's oceans have suffered in terms of reduction and extinction of species and explains what can be done to help the oceans recover. Through portraits of marine creatures, he introduces readers to many forms of sea life that human beings have fished, hunted, and collected. The book is illustrated with Ellis' b&w drawings. Annotation (c) Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: Washington, DC : Island Press/Shearwater Books, c2003
ISBN: 9781559639743
Branch Call Number: 577.7 ELL
Characteristics: xiv, 367 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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ChristchurchLib Aug 13, 2014

Yes, humans are destroying Earth's oceans - i.e., over 70 percent of our own (and only) planet. Yet despite the ominous title, marine biologist Richard Ellis' The Empty Ocean isn't all doom and gloom. Although its true that the world's oceans are becoming increasingly polluted and depleted, their surviving flora and fauna remain awe-inspiring. Moreover, it's not entirely this generation's fault: the present state of the sea is due to thousands upon thousands of years of human interference. Outlining the economic, political, historical, and biological factors that have contributed to the extinction of species, the depletion of worldwide fisheries, the rising sea levels, the acidification of the ocean, and more, Ellis combines elegant prose with detailed line drawings to reveal the marvels of marine life while reminding readers that time is running out. Science and Nature Newsletter August 2014.


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