This article appeared in the August 29, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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How I learned to see the ocean beneath the waves

Matthew D Potenski/The Pew Charitable Trusts/AP
A mako shark swims in the Atlantic Ocean off Rhode Island. Countries agreed to protect more than a dozen shark species at risk of extinction at the World Wildlife Conference known as CITES in August 2019.

In today’s issue, our five hand-picked stories explore the drawbacks of an unwritten constitution, the role of unions in the 2020 election, what counts as hate speech, the limitations of assumptions, and how a library has expanded its purpose.

But first, a rise in interest in the complexity of our oceans has had a tangible impact this week. 

Mako sharks – the “cheetahs of the ocean” – gained international protections, along with several other shark species. Eels, sea cucumbers, queen conchs, marine turtles, some corals, sturgeons, and sea horses were also added to the list. Fishing of those species is not banned, but any trade now must be sustainable. These new protections probably wouldn’t have happened without recent shifts in public perceptions of the ocean.

Our relationship with the ocean is often framed by our limited ability to interact with this watery world, leaving us with a misperception that the ocean is static and simple. This summer, my colleague Amanda Paulson and I have explored this dynamic, charismatic ecosystem through “Peering into the deep,” a five-part series on the ocean.

While reporting the series, I challenged myself to adjust my own perception of the ocean. I’ve tried to take time to simply observe and soak in whatever I might experience. One moment in particular stands out to me.

To report the final installment (an audio story in today’s issue), audio producer Rebecca Asoulin and I spent four hours sitting on a dock, observing. As night fell, the water came alive in ways I never imagined possible. A bunch of crabs larger than my fist scuttled across the surface looking for tasty morsels. It was a magical moment – a brief window into the marine world – that I would have missed if I hadn’t opened my mind to the unexpected.

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This article appeared in the August 29, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/29 edition