Yes all you northern hemispherians, the water is just fine down here in Australia.
This evening I was hot from the thirty something degree weather we are getting in Western Australia, and the Indian ocean was my destination. Just as millions of Indians bath in the Ganges as a spiritual exercise, I get a really profound feeling of renewal when I re-emerge from the sea in the evening after a dip.
Looking out to sea, what do I see…
2006 was the year in which it was predicted that, if current trends continue, all the major fisheries of the world will collapse by 2048 (which means they will be reduced to 10% of their original capacity). ‘Current trends’ mean a global system where fish are sought out with sonar, a technology developed in World War Two to detect submarines, and scooped up in massive nets. If we forget the hi-tech element, the essence of the current war against fish can be understood by us landlubbers if we imagine two jeeps speeding across the African savanna with a huge net strung between them, picking up every lion, antelope and sparrow to get in the way. Of course we wouldn’t condone such a practice on the African savanna, and we shouldn’t condone such rapacious, indiscriminate and, ah, plain dumb harvesting of populations of species which exist beneath the waves. To make sure you’re not taking part in this stupidity, get hold of a copy of the recently released Australian sea food guide, or the equivalent for your country.
But looking out to sea I’m also seeing mystery…
2006 was also the year in which the global Census of Marine Life further revealed how little we know about what is out there beyond our shored horizons. This well-funded international project discovered, to give two examples, a previously unknown species of crayfish off the coast of Madagascar whose length spans half a metre, and, off the coast of New Jersey a 20 million strong bunch of fish swarming in a school the size of Manhattan island. The scientists taking part in the Census of Marine Life know that when their project finishes in 2010, they will still not have shone an all-seeing light onto all that is out there in the sea.
Mystery endures. And I’m still happy to be standing here on the shore, exploring the fragments of life out here on the periphery.