Have you been to the ocean yet this year? Most of us who live inland have an annual compulsion to get to the shore, even if only for a day or two. I think it’s something primal, a draw to something huge and mysterious, a need to synchronize ourselves with the basic rhythms of our world’s waters.
I’ve had seawater on the brain lately. We spent one absolutely perfect day on the Atlantic Ocean – a day so perfect that we’re seriously planning to realign our lives toward a goal of moving closer to the sea.
But the sea we know is under assault. I was listening to a college radio station the other day and heard an interview with an author who claims she can hear messages from the whales and dolphins. They are saying, not surprisingly, that they’ve about had it with us and will be leaving if we don’t start taking care of the sea and creatures who live in it.
Whatever you think about such communication, there is no denying that our greedy, selfish attitude toward the environment is coming back to haunt us. There is a gigantic, swirling pile of garbage hundreds of miles across in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There’s now another in the Atlantic. And there are other, much harder to see, impacts all along the shore.
Julie Keene is a lonely voice trying to preserve a way of life on the most northern reaches of the Maine coast. She harvests sea snails – also known as perwinkles or wrinkles. It’s one of the few ways left to make money along the coast near Lubec, Maine. Overfishing has eliminated most of the other harvesting and fishing opportunities. But the wrinkles are disappearing now. And she says it’s because Canadian companies are eliminating their habitat.
Wrinkles cling to the coastal rocks, protected by thickets of rockweed. Rockweed is that bladder-covered seaweed common to rocks and the seabed in the north Atlantic. It’s disappearing.
Rockweed has a commercial value – it’s used as an emulsifier in food and cosmetics and is also used in livestock feed. And commercial harvesters are slicing off huge swaths of it along the coast, leaving useless stubs and barren rocks.
Julie Keene’s watching it happen, but she’s not a passive bystander. She’s the classic hardy Maine-er. She’s given up her wrinkling to photograph the evidence and even went to the state capitol to testify in hopes of stricter monitoring of commercial rockweed cutting. You can hear her talk about her battle this month on 51%. But you can learn a lot more and maybe even do something to help before the show airs the week of July 14.
Go to The Rockweed Coalition, find out about this issue, find out how you can help.
If you love the ocean, make sure that you do something to preserve it for future generations.
BACK TO "BEHIND THE STORIES" MAIN PAGE
Barnett is the producer and host of 51%
The Women’s Perspective,
a weekly women’s issues radio show carried nationally on NPR,
ABC and Armed Forces Radio stations. 51% The Women’s Perspective
is part of WAMC
- Northeast Public Radio's national productions. "The View From Outside," Susan Barnett's new collection of short fiction, is available in eBook format at Amazon and Barnes and Noble through Hen House Press. You can connect with her on Facebook.
Photo by DB Leonard.