October 8, 2010


Serving as the Toastmistress for the Census of Marine Life’s Celebration at the Royal Academy of Sciences in London, Dr. Sylvia Earle applied her considerable knowledge, wit and wisdom to both a tribute to participants and a celebration of accomplishment. Following is her poetic toast:

First . . . .

A salute to Fred Grassle, with vision ambitious,
A dream, an idea, to census the fishes!
Another, with courage– remember him well.
The one, the only – Jesse Ausubel.

But fishes alone were not enough.
The sea, after all, is alive with stuff.
What about urchins, sea stars and snails?
What of the microbes, the kelp, the whales?

It sounds, at first, slightly outrageous.
But the idea caught on – it was contagious!
Special thanks to the foundation, Alfred P. Sloan
Their mandate was clear: explore the unknown.

Others joined in and momentum grew
For a decade devoted to life in the blue.
The twenty-first century began with a splash,
Two thousands explorers with  just enough cash

To embark on a project, to answer big questions . . .
From 82 countries came help – and suggestions:
Who lives in the sea? Who lived long ago?
The future! The future!  How can we know?

With ships, with subs, with satellites beaming,
In labs and libraries, with coffee mugs steaming,
Discoveries poured in, one after another,
Thousands of creatures known just to their mother–

–Before and until the Census revealed
The who, what and where the sea had concealed.
Thrilling new insights, not known previously,
Life in the Blue, neglected, grievously . . .

In a bucket of water, the gulp of a whale
Diversity thrives on a different scale
More phyla of creatures, a far deeper history
Than all of the land, our bias – a mystery.
A mystery, too, that there is an impression
That fish can be taken, what’s the expression?
As “harvested” goods, as if from a farm
In numbers so large there is cause for alarm.

Ninety per cent gone are some tasty creatures
Taken before knowing more valuable features.
The losses are large, the Census confirms this.
With continuing trends, our children may miss

The presence of turtles, of tuna, and shark
Of oceans depleted, their future . . . stark.
But knowing yields caring and caring yields hope. . .
That our species will see and somehow will cope.

We have power, and plenty of reasons
To continue the Census for many more seasons.
Much  has been learned, and ten years  a lot.
But the end of the mission?  It’s definitely not.

How much of the ocean has so far been seen?
Five per cent?  Less? See what I mean?
With the state of the ocean now in decline,
Our, future, too, is on the line. . .

To the past, to the future, to all who chimed in . ..
A new Census of Marinelife is about to begin.
Now is the time, as never before
To explore and explore – and explore…..some more.

With your glasses . . .

. . . . Onward – and downward!

Written by: Dr. Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Giving Her Toast to the Ocean Census Team
Photo: Dan Laffoley, WCPA

Massive Count a Drop in the Bucket Decade-long Census of Marine Life leaves plenty to discover

A 10-year international project called the Census of Marine Life has come to an end with what has to be one of the strangest census reports ever.

At the project’s finale in London October 4, a summary of the collaboration by 2,700 scientists from more than 600 institutions around the world highlighted their own undercounts and the vast realms they missed. That, however, was the point.
Click here to find out more!

“There’s a lot of ocean left to explore,” says environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel, a census cofounder and program officer of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The water world covers the majority of the planet, feeds people far inland, offers exotic compounds for drugs and manufacturing, regulates the planet’s climate and provides half its oxygen, but has yet to be fully explored.
How many fish in the sea? Click here to find out!

By Susan Milius, Science News


2 thoughts on “A Toast! A Toast! To the First Ocean Census!

  1. Brilliant! Bravo to you, Sylvia, and to Fred and all the dedicated researchers who have contributed to this valuable tool. I second Charlotte's sentiment–Bring it on! xxoo John

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