What’s on : Lectures

Ocean of Life: How our seas are changing

9 Oct 2012
Start time
7:30 PM
Tempest Anderson Hall
Prof Callum Roberts
Ocean of Life: How our seas are changing

Event Information

Ocean of Life: How our Seas are Changing

A lecture by Professor Callum Roberts
Professor of marine conservation at the University of York

The sea is savage and serene, a giver and taker of life, a road to glory, riches or ruin.  But it hides its mysteries well.  In this lecture, Callum Roberts explores the remarkable unfolding story of humanity’s relationship with the sea, from the first seafood dinner 140,000 years ago, to our planetary dominance today.  In the past century, the variety and abundance of ocean life have been greatly reduced by overfishing and a cocktail of man-made stresses, particularly pollution and climate change.  Taken together, these effects are changing the oceans faster and in more ways than at any time in human history.  Because of the overwhelming influence that the oceans have in the processes that define our planet, these losses not only threaten sea-life, they place human wellbeing itself in jeopardy.  The lecture will explore these changes and what it will take to avoid the coming crisis.

Download a poster for this event by clicking on this link: YPS 2012 10 09 Ocean of Life (Poster)


Ocean of Life from Yorkshire Philosophical Society on Vimeo.

Report by Peter Hogarth

Man has exploited the sea for 120,000 years. Over the last 150 or so years, the intensity of fishing has increased: overfishing has reduced many target species to virtual extinction, while the methods used result in immensely wasteful bycatch; have damaged habitats and reduced biodiversity and ecosystem resilience. Meanwhile, further damage has been caused by pollution, and by climate change: raised sea temperatures, lowered oxygen concentration, increased acidity, and rising sea level. Already some areas of the seas are ocean deserts. This was a graphic account of the present state of the sea, and of its bleak future.
What can be done?  Better techniques and management of fisheries could cut waste and reduce habitat damage. Rational fisheries-management could actually increase the harvest.  Protected areas – at present 1% of the sea, compared with 13% of land area – are crucial to support the marine habitat. The aim must be to reduce the “rampant overuse and abuse” of the sea, to restore, as far as possible, dysfunctional ecosystems and give them the resilience to survive.


Callum Roberts is the author of “The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea”

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