The Beacon

What we don't know could fill an ocean

Today at Oceana HQ, we wrapped up Fish School, which is a crash course in ocean conservancy for new employees and board members. In 12 hours or so, I was reminded of how much we know about the ocean in the context of how far we can push our fisheries (not much farther), but I was also reminded how little we know.

The oceans weren't formally explored until 1872, and even today there are huge swaths still unknown. Commercial fishers probably know more about the lives of fish than scientists do, not to mention the treasure hunters: In this week's New Yorker, professional treasure hunter Greg Stemm defends his company's sometimes-reckless pursuit of ancient bullion: "The truth is that in the largest unexplored part of our earth, Odyssey does things that no government in the world can do."

At an average 2.4 miles deep and covering 71 percent of the earth's surface, the ocean is a vast place we're only beginning to understand. While I like to think I feel a bit wiser at the end of Fish School, the question-and-answer format of much of the seminar was Socratic in more ways than one: As the philosopher once said, "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing."


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