The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival

( 2 )


Anyone who has ever stood on the shores of Monterey Bay, watching the rolling ocean waves and frolicking otters, knows it is a unique place. But even residents on this idyllic California coast may not realize its full history. Monterey began as a natural paradise, but became the poster child for industrial devastation in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row,and is now one of the most celebrated shorelines in the world.


It is a remarkable story of life, death, and revival—told ...

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The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival

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Anyone who has ever stood on the shores of Monterey Bay, watching the rolling ocean waves and frolicking otters, knows it is a unique place. But even residents on this idyllic California coast may not realize its full history. Monterey began as a natural paradise, but became the poster child for industrial devastation in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row,and is now one of the most celebrated shorelines in the world.


It is a remarkable story of life, death, and revival—told here for the first time in all its stunning color and bleak grays. The Death and Life of Monterey Bay begins in the eighteenth century when Spanish and French explorers encountered a rocky shoreline brimming with life—raucous sea birds, abundant sea otters, barking sea lions, halibut the size of wagon wheels,waters thick with whales. A century and a half later, many of the sea creatures had disappeared, replaced by sardine canneries that sickened residents with their stench but kept the money flowing. When the fish ran out and the climate turned,the factories emptied and the community crumbled. But today,both Monterey’s economy and wildlife are resplendent. How did it happen?


The answer is deceptively simple: through the extraordinary acts of ordinary people. The Death and Life of Monterey Bay is the biography of a place, but also of the residents who reclaimed it. Monterey is thriving because of an eccentric mayor who wasn’t afraid to use pistols, axes, or the force of law to protect her coasts. It is because of fishermen who love their livelihood, scientists who are fascinated by the sea’s mysteries, and philanthropists and community leaders willing to invest in a world-class aquarium. The shores of Monterey Bay revived because of human passion—passion that enlivens every page of this hopeful book

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Editorial Reviews

author of Song for the Blue Ocean and The View From Lazy Point - Carl Safina

"In a world of too many problems and too few solutions, Monterey Bay, California bucks the trend. It's better now than a century ago, and the vision of what can happen when stubborn people set their minds to something makes this a story not just of a great place, but of inspiration that can work in many places."
author of The Empty Ocean and Tuna: A Love Story - Richard Ellis

"Just as the Monterey Bay Aquarium now exhibits the wonders of marine life in the unique environment of Monterey Bay, Palumbi and Sotka turn back the pages of time to illuminate the fall and rise of the sea otter population; the lives of the local squid and abalones; the men and women who lived and worked there; the whales that came (and still come) to visit; the collapse of the sardine canneries; and how the dilapidated Hovden cannery was transformed into the best aquarium in America."

"[Explains] the incredible comeback of one of the most important locales for marine biodiversity [and details the] entertaining lessons on species interdependence and the quirky characters who helped the recovery happen."
Santa Cruz Sentinel

Trends in Ecology and Evolution

"Palumbi and Sotka have taken the legacy Monterey Bay and created a model for successful ocean conservation: understand the ecology of the area, commit to marine protected areas, educate the public, be patient and persevere. Individual contributions might only be apparent in hindsight, but that does not make the many less significant. The story of Monterey Bay is not only a story of exploitation and collapse, but also one of resilience and hope."

"The death and life of Monterey Bay: a story of revival should be the top candidate as a narrative for the next seminar you teach on socio-ecological systems."
The San Francisco Chronicle

"[A] colorful history of times long gone, of environments degraded, of an intricate web of life threatened—and how it has finally begun to recover through the hopeful work of communities and their leaders…[A] fascinating book, filled with anecdote and history, they explore the complex environment of the region, its fabulous sea life, and its colorful cast of humans."
Professor, University of York and author of The Unnatural History of the Sea - Callum Roberts

"Palumbi and Sotka bring to life a rich cast of characters from five centuries to tell the story of Monterey Bay's discovery, destruction, and redemption. A marvellous tale, beautifully told."
Publishers Weekly
In this buoyant history of Monterey Bay, it's the humans, not the ocean life, that take center stage because, as marine biologists Palumbi and Sotka write, "no act of environmentalism is conceived or acted on by fish. It is the people who are inspired to act and whose acts inspire." The bay was long a magnet for the adventurous, quirky, and brilliant: the 18th-century New England sea captains who decimated the bay's otter population and kelp forest ecosystem; the bohemian trio of John Steinbeck, Joseph Campbell, and ecologist Ed Ricketts, who philosophized and partied together in Pacific Grove; Hewlett-Packard tycoon David Packard, funder of the Monterey Aquarium; and Julia Platt, a brilliant zoologist, "rabble rouser," and founder of the Hopkins Marine Life Refuge. But the otters are the ultimate heroes, returning to the bay in the 1960s after the collapse of the sardine fisheries and reviving the kelp forest and its inhabitants. The narration may not be the most elegant, but the happy ending, so rare in nature literature nowadays, is refreshing. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781610911900
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 8/15/2012
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 253,434
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen R. Palumbi is the Director of the Hopkins Marine Station and the Jane and Marshall Steele Jr. Professor of Marine Science at Stanford University.  Carolyn Sotka manages science and policy outreach activities for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Oceans and Human Health Initiative.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi


Chapter 1 Julia's Window 3

Part I The Ruin

Chapter 2 The First California Gold Rush: Otters 11

Chapter 3 Whale Bones in Treasure Bay 25

Chapter 4 Abalone Shells and China Point 37

Part II The Bottom

Chapter 5 Dr. Mayor Julia Piatt 55

Chapter 6 The Power of One: Julia Fights the Canneries 68

Chapter 7 Ed Ricketts, Ecology and the Philosophy of Tide Pools 87

Chapter 8 Dust Bowl of the Sea: The Canneries Collapse 100

Part III The Recovery

Chapter 9 The Otter Returns 113

Chapter 10 Kelp, Seals, and Seabirds Rise Again 132

Chapter 11 The Aquarium 144

Chapter 12 The Century to Come 163

Acknowledgments 175

About the Authors 177

Notes 179

Index 203

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Death and Life of Monterey Bay

    With an interesting title - Death and Life - Palumbi and Sotka open the door to the history of Monterey Bay. What was almost totally descimated is now a resplendent coastline full of wildlife and areas of enjoyment for all. But it hasn't always been this way and it was a long, hard struggle to reclaim the area. Commerce, canneries, and consequences threatened to completely destroy this area, killing off the animals, and driving people away. But, a mayor with a vision and the help of many around her, reclaimed the area for all to enjoy.

    I enjoyed reading the history of Monterey Bay, something I hadn't spent much time really thinking about. It was interesting to read about the unintended consequences of the canneries and the fight to reclaim the area. If you love coastlines and the plethora of creatures that inhabit them, you will enjoy this book. Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book on my Nook. The opinions here are my own.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 31, 2014

    Terrific Book with Great Information

    I really enjoyed this book. I got it because I've started volunteering at the Monterey Bay Aquarium but I enjoyed it on so many levels. It is well written by a scientists who are able to convey their information to the layman. It has wonderful insight into the people and the events that led to the destruction of Monterey Bay by over fishing, hunting and the canneries. It also lets you get to know the people who cared enough to make a difference to get the Bay back to a healthier environment for all fish and mammals. A cautionary tale about the Bay and the cycle of life that is true all over our planet.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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