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Known as "Her Deepness" by the New Yorker and the New York Times and a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress, Sylvia Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author and[…]

You may like the taste, but is your dinner worth its cost to our ecosystem?

Question: As a conservationist, are therern certain searncreatures you won’t eat?


Sylvia Earle: I once had an encounter with arn lobster, a young and curiousrnlobster.  It was not big enough tornqualify as one that people would normally take home for dinner.  It was in the Florida Keys.  It rnwas in shallow water about ten feetrndeep.  I was using scuba even inrnten feet of water, but I was exploring the sea grass meadow that was in rnmanyrnways as rich as a rainforest, but even wetter than a rainforest.  Lots of little creatures, greatrndiversity of life, big wedges of life that you don’t find in anyplace onrn thernland—even in the most diverse and rich rainforest, because the ocean hasrn wholerncategories of life that never have occurred on the land they are there, rneven inrnthis sea grass meadow—and then about 30 feet away I saw this lobster rnjustrnambling out, broad daylight, usually you see them at night.  This was in the middle of the day andrnit was out exploring as young things are likely to do and it caught a rnglimpsernof me and instead of darting away it did this most remarkable thing likern thernwhales in Hawaii years before.  Itrndid its little change of direction, came right over to where I was.  You know if it had been you know tenrnfeet long and six feet high I would have been terrified because look at arnlobster.  They look like somernimaginary creature might, some Hollywood concoction, but no, it was thisrn littlernlobster and I was… as it approached I didn’t move.  Irn just stayed and let it do its thing and what it did wasrncome over, take it’s antennae and start touching my facemask and then rnitsrnlittle pinchers and started touch, touch, touch, not pinching, just rntouch,rntouch, touch around my face and it started making these little lobster rnpurringrnsounds and I never thought about lobster the same way since then.  I certainly have never eaten a lobsterrnsince then. 

rnrnrnrnI had already sort of phased out because I value rnthem morernalive than cooked.  They have a rolernin the ocean that is critically important and I don’t really need to eatrnthem.  They are so much morernvaluable on my list if they’re out there swimming around or really for rnall ofrnus if we value a healthy ocean we will value the components of what makern anrnocean healthy.  That includes tunasrnand swordfish and lobsters and grouper and snapper and clams and oystersrn and... Dornwe have to stop eating them?  No,rnbut we need to think about what the consequences are, not just to them, rnbut alsornto us.  Think about what they havernbeen eating that you don’t necessarily want in you, given what we’ve rndone to thernocean in the last few decades that come back to haunt us in heavy loads rnofrnmercury and PCBs and all the pesticides and herbicides that are rnaccumulating,rneven the antibiotics, the hormone, the endocrine disruptors that we havernallowed to go into the ocean that are now coming back to us in what we rntake outrnof the ocean.  They getrnconcentrated.  The further up thernfood chain you go the higher the concentration and we tend to eat high rnon thernfood chain when we take from the sea and we tend to take creatures that rnarernmore than just a year old.  We tendrnto take the ones that are the big creatures that also have the highestrnconcentrations of what you don’t want in you.
Recorded April 14th, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen