"However fragmented the world, however intense the national rivalries, it is an inexorable fact that we become more interdependent every day. I believe that national sovereignties will shrink in the face of universal interdependence. The sea, the great unifier, is man's only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: We are all in the same boat." - Jacques Cousteau

Share with us...one ocean, one dream.



5 Part Series – Los Angeles Times
Published July 30 - Aug. 3, 2006

About This Series

Kenneth R. Weiss, a Los Angeles Times staff member since 1990, has covered the California coast and the oceans for the past five years.

Covering narrow policy disputes over such issues as catch limits on fish and permissible levels of ocean pollutants prompted him to think about the long-term health of the seas. He was further inspired by scientific lectures and papers describing a gradual but profound transformation of the world's oceans, marked by the decline of fish and marine mammals and the proliferation of primitive life forms — algae, bacteria, jellyfish.

Weiss began reporting this series in 2005 and traveled widely — to Australia, Panama and Jamaica; to Midway, Palmyra Atoll and the Hawaiian Islands; and up and down the coasts of California, Washington, Florida and Georgia. He can be reached at ken.weiss@latimes.com.

Times photographer Rick Loomis, whose own travels have taken him around the world, accompanied Weiss to most of those places.

Times reporter Usha Lee McFarling contributed to the series. McFarling has worked for the newspaper's science desk since 2000, covering earth science and the space program. In recent years, she has focused on climate change, particularly its effects on the Arctic.

A Primeval Tide of Toxins

Runoff from modern life is feeding an explosion of primitive organisms. This 'rise of slime,' as one scientist calls it, is killing larger species and sickening people.

MORETON BAY, AUSTRALIA -- The fireweed began each spring as tufts of hairy growth and spread across the seafloor fast enough to cover a football field in an hour.

When fishermen touched it, their skin broke out in searing welts. Their lips blistered and peeled. Their eyes burned and swelled shut. Water that splashed from their nets spread the inflammation to their legs and torsos...

Sentinels Under Attack

Toxic algae that poison the brain have caused strandings and mass die-offs of marine mammals — barometers of the sea's health.

SAN FRANCISCO -- After the last patient of the day walked out the front of Raytel Medical Imaging clinic, veterinarian Frances Gulland slipped an oversized animal crate through the back door.

Inside was a California sea lion. The animal was emaciated, disoriented and suffering from seizures...

Dark Tides, Ill Winds

With sickening regularity, toxic algae blooms are invading coastal waters. They kill sea life and send poisons ashore on the breeze, forcing residents to flee.

LITTLE GASPARILLA ISLAND, FLA. -- All Susan Leydon has to do is stick her head outside and take a deep breath of sea air. She can tell if her 10-year-old son is about to get sick. If she coughs or feels a tickle in the back of her throat, she lays down the law: No playing on the beach. No, not even in the yard. Come back inside. Now...

Plague of Plastic Chokes the Seas

On Midway Atoll, 40% of albatross chicks die, their bellies full of trash. Swirling masses of drifting debris pollute remote beaches and snare wildlife.

MIDWAY ATOLL -- The albatross chick jumped to its feet, eyes alert and focused. At 5 months, it stood 18 inches tall and was fully feathered except for the fuzz that fringed its head.

All attitude, the chick straightened up and clacked its beak at a visitor, then rocked back and dangled webbed feet in the air to cool them in the afternoon breeze...

A Chemical Imbalance

Growing seawater acidity threatens to wipe out coral, fish and other crucial species worldwide.

As she stared down into a wide-mouthed plastic jar aboard the R/V Discoverer, Victoria Fabry peered into the future.

The marine snails she was studying — graceful creatures with wing-like feet that help them glide through the water — had started to dissolve...


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