Song for the Blue Ocean Encounters Along the World's Coasts and Beneath the Seas

Carl Safina

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

480 Pages



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A New York Times Notable Book
A Los Angeles Times Best Nonfiction Selection
A Library Journal Best Science Book Selection

Part odyssey, part pilgrimage, this epic personal narrative follows the author's exploration of coasts, islands, reefs, and the sea's abyssal depths. Scientist and fisherman Safina takes readers on a global journey of discovery, probing for truth about the world's changing seas, deftly weaving adventure, science, and political analysis. We observe people whose lives and occupations unfold in a drama of clashing personal histories and daily struggles for existence. We enter the embattled world of New England fisherman on the trail of overfished giant tuna; visit the Philippine Islamic separatists trying to protect their coral reefs; bear witness to the northwestern salmon rivers and estuaries degraded by deforestation; observe the fragile South Pacific reefs whose fishes and invertebrates are the prey of rapacious market hunters. Safina shows us how our exploitation of the ocean's resources is little different from the nineteenth-century plunder that destroyed the buffalo. But he also tells dramatic and hopeful stories of the sea's revival and replenishment.


Praise for Song for the Blue Ocean

"Safina's Song is the Silent Spring for our time . . . A heartbreaking requiem for the world's aquatic resources . . . a plaintive, sensitive, caring, intelligent, indignant paean to his beloved waters and their threatened inhabitants. His book will make you mad as hell; it will make you marvel at the wonders he describes (his descriptions of bluefin tuna, like the great fish themselves, are poetry), and it will make you glad there is someone like him to devote his life to the preservation of the Earth's most fragile and misunderstood ecosystems . . . It should be a clarion call for people who think that creatures of the depths (or the shallows) are safe from the voracious predations of fishermen. I loved this book, but I hated what it was about. It was like reading a brilliant description of Auschwitz or Hiroshima. It is a frightening, important book. Read it and weep."—Richard Ellis, Los Angeles Times

"[A] landmark book . . . passionate and enthralling . . . In Song for the Blue Ocean, his engrossing and illuminating journey to the world's marine killing grounds stirs up typhoon-sized waves of bad news for almost anyone fond of eating, catching or admiring fish, including sushi lovers, backyard swordfish barbecuers, sport fishermen hoping for more than sunburn and a beer hangover from a day's charter, scuba divers lacking the time or money to search out reefs that dynamite and cyanide have not yet turned into underwater Hiroshimas, independent commercial fishermen and travelers expecting fishing boats and fishermen in coastal villages instead of boutiques."—Thurston Clarke, The New York Times Book Review

"Song for the Blue Ocean mesmerizes readers with many such exciting accounts of Safina's adventures while examining the ecological and social consequences of three controversial ocean fisheries. On his way to the inescapable conclusion that many fisheries have been over-harvested and poorly managed, Safina transforms encounters with ordinary people and places into instructive vignettes. We nibble away on his fascinating stories until wham! he hooks us repeatedly with his premise . . . His bright new voice now joins that influential chorus, which includes Rachel Carson and Jacques Cousteau, of scientists turned eloquent ocean advocates."—Harry E. Demarest, San Francisco Chronicle

"In this remarkable book, Carl Safina takes us on an odyssey across our ocean planet . . . This is a tale told accurately, fairly and with compassion . . . Song for the Blue Ocean is peopled with ordinary and extraordinary people whose efforts inspire and offer hope . . . In the end, though, this is a deeply shocking book . . . read it."—Conservation Biology

"Passionate, disturbing . . . Safina is one of the world's leading voices for protection of the oceans and the creatures within them. From this solid position of authority, he could have written a worthy tome. Thank goodness he didn't. Instead, Safina has written a highly personal account of his experiences as he follows fishermen, biologists and others at the front lines of what will surely be the big conservation battle of the early 21st century . . . He recognizes that life is complicated, a welcome trait in a conservationist—and in a traveling companion."—Bob Holmes, New Scientist

"You will never think about fish—or the ocean—the same way again."—Sylvia Earle, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association

"Carl Safina's new book, Song for the Blue Ocean, is one of those revolutionary works that permanently alter our view of a subject."—Bill McKibben, Interview

"Stunning . . . Poetic and powerful."—The Washington Post

"With Song for the Blue Ocean, a beautifully written personal account of his travels and experiences with people and creatures of the ocean and coast, Carl Safina reinforces his role as perhaps the most charismatic, passionate, authoritative, and mature voice speaking on behalf of the world's oceans . . . Likely to become a classic."—Michael A. Rivlin, Amicus Journal

"Environmental writing sometimes shuns the human side of things. Safina's focus on real people—men and women afraid for their livelihood—is one of the unexpected strengths of a book rich in science and natural observation."—Civilization

"With the kind of clarity and eloquence found only in the very best nature writing, he enlightens us . . . with insight and wit; and his best, often sensuous phrases last like memories of chocolate after the taste itself is gone."—Elliott Norse, Natural History

"Nearly every sentence in Safina's state-of-the-oceans report is informed by his deep sense of these waters' beauty—and fragility . . . He knows much about a wide variety of species and their habitats, and what he doesn't know, we discover with him . . . Safina's first book is a welcome paean."—Publishers Weekly

"Richly descriptive and energetically informative."—Booklist

"Safina's findings are recorded in this book—and they will absolutely blow your socks off. This is Pulitzer Prize material; it should rank as one of the most important books of the late 20th century . . . because we must know the things Safina is trying to tell us."—Fly Fishing in Salt Waters

"A haunting melody . . . Magnificent, profoundly disturbing."—The Seattle Times

Reviews from Goodreads



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New England & the Maritimes

A few inches from where I stood, human history ended. The bronze age, the industrial revolution, the space age—gone. One hundred years ago, one...

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  • Carl Safina

  • Carl Safina is the founder and director of the Living Oceans Program at the National Audubon Society, an adjunct professor at Yale University, and a recipient of the Pew Charitable Trust's Scholar's Award in Conservation and the Environment. Eye of the Albatross is his most recent book, which is also published by Henry Holt & Co.

  • Carl Safina Patricia Paladines
    Carl Safina