Safina, Carl 1955-

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Safina, Carl 1955-


Born 1955. Education: State University of New York, B.A., 1977; Rutgers University, M.S., 1981, Ph.D., 1987. Hobbies and other interests: Birding, fishing, falconry, music.


Office—Blue Ocean Institute, Muttontown Park and Preserve, Chelsea Mansion, 34 Muttontown Ln., P.O. Box 250, East Norwich, NY 11732. E-mail—[email protected].


Ecologist and author. National Audubon Society, New York, NY, founder and head of the Living Oceans Program, 1990—; Blue Ocean Institute, Amagansett, NY, cofounder and president, 2003—. Visiting professor at Yale University; adjunct professor at Stony Brook University. Served on Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, 1991-94, Antarctica Project, 1993, Society for Conservation Biology, 1998-99, Smithsonian Institution Ocean Planet advisory board, and World Conservation Union Shark Specialist Group.


Explorers Club, American Ornithologists Union, Smithsonian Institution.


Shapiro Conservation Award, New York State Parks, 1990; Pew Charitable Trust Scholar Award in Conservation and the Environment, 1991; Carl R. Sullivan Conservation Award, American Fisheries Society, 1999; Lannan Literary Award, 2000; MacArthur fellowship, 2001; Herman Melville Writer's Award, New York State Marine Educators Association, 2001; Conservation Award, International Game Fish Association, 2001; New York Times Notable Book selection and Los Angeles Times Best Nonfiction selection, both for Song for the Blue Ocean; John Burroughs Writer's Award, 2003, for Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival; Most Distinguished Alumnus award, Rutgers University, 2003; National Academies Communications Award, 2003; World Wildlife Fund senior fellow; George B. Rabb Medal, Chicago Zoological Society, 2006; honorary doctorates from State University of New York, 2005, and Long Island University.


Song for the Blue Ocean: Encounters along the World's Coasts and beneath the Seas (nonfiction), Holt (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Mercedes Lee and Suzanne Ludicello) Seafood Lovers Almanac, Audubon (New York, NY), 2000.

Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival, Holt (New York, NY), 2002.

Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur, Holt (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to books, including The Gaia Atlas of Planet Management, edited by N. Myers, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2005. Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Sea Frontiers, Scientific American, Audubon, American Scientist, Conservation Biology, Insights on Law and Society, and Issues in Science and Technology.


Carl Safina is founding president of the Blue Ocean Institute. His passion for ocean ecology is evidenced in his books Song for the Blue Ocean:Encounters along the World's Coasts and beneath the Seas, Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival, and Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur. Safina also contributes articles to magazines about ecological issues affecting the seas.

As a reviewer for the Economist reported, Safina makes three main assertions in Song for the Blue Ocean: "The Atlantic bluefin tuna has been severely overfished. Salmon along the north-west coast of America and Canada are dwindling. And coral reefs in the Pacific are being destroyed by dynamite and cyanide." Safina discusses the fact that the bluefin tuna is highly prized by the Japanese, who use it to prepare their finest sushi. Because Japanese gourmets are willing to pay up to fifty dollars a serving in food stores and restaurants, one bluefin weighing three hundred pounds was said to sell for eighty-three thousand, five hundred dollars. Safina urges that the bluefin be classified as an endangered species, and he argues that the fish is not classified as such because of maneuvering on the part of tuna marketers.

Overfishing, according to Safina, is also partially responsible for the decrease in the salmon population. Perhaps more to blame, in the author's opinion, is the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest, which blocks the salmon streams with fallen logs and destroys the salmon's protective shade by cutting down trees along river banks. Fish ladders, which are designed to help salmon maneuver around obstacles such as man-made dams, have only been constructed at a few sites. In one instance, reported Thurston Clarke, reviewing Song for the Blue Ocean in the New York Times Book Review, the Army Corps of Engineers closed "a dam on the Columbia River before the fish ladders were ready so that it could be dedicated on schedule (causing 200,000 adult salmon to hurl themselves to death against its concrete)."

The practice of removing beautiful saltwater fish from the coral reefs of the Pacific Ocean is another problem noted by Safina. These reef fish are highly prized as delicacies among wealthy Hong Kong businessmen, but part of the dining experience is to see one's next meal alive, swimming in a tank, before it is cooked. Thus, Pacific island fishermen resort to the use of cyanide to stun the fish for capture; the fish are then transported in crowded conditions to restaurants. Not only does the cyanide kill fish, but it kills the coral that forms the reefs, making it uninhabitable for future generations of sea life.

Though Safina protests many similar fishing practices, he expresses sympathy for fishing people who now struggle to make their living in the face of the decreasing fish populations. He pushes an agenda in which fishing is not halted, but in which the ocean's resources are managed sensibly. Safina also holds out hope, in the pages of Song for the Blue Ocean, that with the present trend toward conservation, the world's oceans can be saved.

Critical response to Song for the Blue Ocean was predominantly favorable. The Economist reviewer, however, observed that "the song owes more to journalism than science." The reviewer also remarked that the author relied mostly upon "narrative, description and quotation" to "illustrate a universal tendency to overfish and destroy." Clarke hailed Song for the Blue Ocean as "engrossing and illuminating," while Richard Ellis in the Los Angeles Times Book Review proclaimed Safina "an ecologist with the soul of a poet, a writer of graceful prose on ungraceful, disturbing subjects." He went on to conclude that Song for the Blue Ocean is "a frightening, important book."

The albatross, a large and beautiful seabird, is the subject of Safina's second book. Eye of the Albatross relates Safina's sojourn to a remote area in the northwest Hawaiian Islands, where he observed the albatross breeding season. Safina learned that the adult birds, who work as a team, might fly as much as 25,000 miles to find enough food for their chicks, which are raised singly. These great birds have been abused for many years. Once hunted almost to extinction for their valuable feathers and eggs, they are now threatened by commercial fishing nets, depletion of their food stocks from overfishing and global warming, and death from common household trash that washes up on the shore of the islands upon which they nest. Safina's narrative points out the peaceful side of nature rather than emphasizing its savage aspects as many natural histories do. "The result is a refreshing approach to natural history writing that is recommended for general readers," advised Mary J. Nickum in the Library Journal. In addition to chronicling the movements of the birds, he also discusses the activities of the scientists, fishermen, and other members of the animal kingdom that come in contact with the albatross. A Publishers Weekly reviewer cautioned that Safina tends to "psychologize animals" and found that parts of the book "resonate with more romantic passion than science." Yet, concluded the reviewer, Eye of the Albatross, which is "by turns rhapsodic, scolding and mystical," provides a "stunningly intimate portrait" of the world of the albatross.

In Voyage of the Turtle, Safina examines the plight of giant sea turtles, which are in jeopardy from poaching, industrial fishing, and commercial development along shorelines. The idea for the work came to Safina when he spotted some turtles laying eggs as he researched Eye of the Albatross. Turtles "always struck me as extremely graceful and just really lovely," the author told New York Times interviewer Andrew C. Revkin. "There is something about the magisterial slowness of their movements, and many of them get to be rather old, so they seem like venerable citizens of the deep. But seeing the turtle lay eggs was also a very moving experience, and I thought that it would be nice to follow them around, write a book about how the oceans are changing … through the eyes of sea turtles."

In Voyage of the Turtle, Safina focuses on the largest of the aquatic creatures, the leatherback, which typically grows to 800 pounds, dives to 3,900 feet, and navigates journeys of thousands of miles across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Safina visited nesting sites in Florida, Mexico, Trinidad, and Papua New Guinea, where he interviewed fishermen, scientists, and conservationists. "The central voyage in Carl Safina's narrative … is the author's own," observed Natural History reviewer Laurence Marschall. "His account, filled with prose that is often graceful but at times lapses into purple," wrote OnEarth contributor Laura Wright, "weaves science and history into a chronicle of his adventures with the people who know, or seek to know, turtles best." A critic in Publishers Weekly described the work as "a battle cry in the struggle for the survival of one of the world's most beautiful and endangered creatures."



Audubon, November 1, 2006, Susan Cosier, review of Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur, p. 86.

Economist, May 16, 1998, review of Song for the Blue Ocean: Encounters along the World's Coasts and beneath the Seas, p. 89.

Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, spring, 1999, Linda S. Moist, review of Song for the Blue Ocean, p. 118.

Geotimes, September, 2000, "Interviews with Earth Science ‘Geniuses’: The MacArthur Fellows," p. 30.

Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy, fall, 1999, Michael A. Rivlin, review of Song for the Blue Ocean, p. 379.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2002, review of Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival, p. 169.

Library Journal, March 1, 1999, review of Song for the Blue Ocean, p. 47; March 1, 2002, Mary J. Nickum, review of Eye of the Albatross, p. 132.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 18, 1998, review of Song for the Blue Ocean, p. 9.

Natural History, June, 2006, Laurence Marschall, review of Voyage of the Turtle, p. 56.

New York Times, October 24, 2006, Andrew C. Revkin, "The Biologist and the Sea: Lessons in Marine-Life Restoration," p. 2.

New York Times Book Review, January 25, 1998, review of Song for the Blue Ocean, p. 11; November 21, 1999, review of Song for the Blue Ocean, p. 78; December 5, 1999, review of Song for the Blue Ocean, p. 105; July 2, 2006, David Quammen, "High Seas Drifter," review of Voyage of the Turtle, p. 14.

OnEarth, summer, 2006, Laura Wright, review of Voyage of the Turtle, p. 41.

Publishers Weekly, March 4, 2002, review of Eye of the Albatross, p. 65; April 3, 2006, review of Voyage of the Turtle, p. 55.

School Library Journal, November, 2006, Brigeen Radoicich, review of Voyage of the Turtle, p. 174.

Science Books & Films, September 1, 2006, Edward I. Saiff, review of Voyage of the Turtle, p. 206.

Underwater Naturalist, February, 1999, review of Song for the Blue Ocean, p. 45.

Washington Post Book World, June 10, 2007, Rachel Hartigan, review of Voyage of the Turtle, p. 15.


Blue Ocean Institute, (September 1, 2007), "Dr. Carl Safina."

Carl Safina Home Page, (September 1, 2007).

Pew Institute for Ocean Science, (September 1, 2007), "Carl Safina."