cover image The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival

The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival

Stephen R. Palumbi and Carolyn Sotka, Island, $26.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-59726-435-8

In this buoyant history of Monterey Bay, it's the humans, not the ocean life, that take center stage because, as marine biologists Palumbi and Sotka write, "no act of environmentalism is conceived or acted on by fish. It is the people who are inspired to act and whose acts inspire." The bay was long a magnet for the adventurous, quirky, and brilliant: the 18th-century New England sea captains who decimated the bay's otter population and kelp forest ecosystem; the bohemian trio of John Steinbeck, Joseph Campbell, and ecologist Ed Ricketts, who philosophized and partied together in Pacific Grove; Hewlett-Packard tycoon David Packard, funder of the Monterey Aquarium; and Julia Platt, a brilliant zoologist, "rabble rouser," and founder of the Hopkins Marine Life Refuge. But the otters are the ultimate heroes, returning to the bay in the 1960s after the collapse of the sardine fisheries and reviving the kelp forest and its inhabitants. The narration may not be the most elegant, but the happy ending, so rare in nature literature nowadays, is refreshing. (Nov.)