Reconsidering Ocean Calamities

A new paper by Carlos Duarte et al in Bioscience: “Reconsidering Ocean Calamities” that interestingly straddles Media Studies, the publishing of observational science, and the ethnography of scientific research agendas. The paper suggests that reporting of alleged ocean calamities is being routinely overstated by journalists, in ways that are often not backed up by observational research.

He looks specifically at overfishing, jellyfish blooms, invasive species, and coral die-off. Overfishing is agreed to be a major problem (though mostly so in the global south of the planet, I might add). The other ocean threats he finds to be significantly over-hyped, while good research to the contrary is apparently often ignored by reporters.

This might be discounted as just yet another example of the sad decline of investigative and science journalism. But — more worryingly — he hints that ocean research scientists are starting to be sucked into the same vortex as some on land are: tempted to skew the research agenda toward the alleged threat, rather than risk loosing popular awareness and funding.