Remebrance of Oceans Past:
Historical Overfishing and the Recent Collapse of  Coastal Ecosystems

Jeremy Jackson - William and Mary B. Memorial Professor, Geosciences Res. Div.,
Scripps Institute of  Oceanography      

Seminar Abstract:

Ecological understanding of the oceans is based on an unnatural mix of mostly small species whose trophic relations are distorted to an unknown degree by the overfishing of megafauna including sharks, sea turtles, sea cows, seals, and whales. Living habitats like seagrass beds, kelp forests, and coral reefs that once provided critical 3-dimensional habitats for refuge and reproduction of most of the biodiversity of the oceans are also greatly reduced by fishing and other factors. Successful restoration and conservation require a more realistic understanding of the ecology of pristine marine ecosystems that can only be obtained by a combination of retrospective analyses, modeling, and intensive studies of succession in very large marine reserves.

Jeremy Jackson is William and Mary B. Ritter Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Geosciences Division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego and a Senior Scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in the Republic of Panama. He was Professor of Ecology at the Johns Hopkins University from 1971 to 1985. Dr. Jackson is the author of more than100 scientific publications and five books. His current research includes the long-term ecological consequences of historical overfishing on coastal ecosystems and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of the gradual formation of the Isthmus of Panama. He co-founded the Panama Paleontology Project in 1986, an international group of some 30 scientists, to help support his isthmian research. He has also worked extensively on the ecology of coral reef communities and the tempo and mode of speciation in the sea. Dr. Jackson is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and received the Secretary's Gold Medal for Exceptional Service of the Smithsonian Institution in 1997 and the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Science and Engineering in 2002. His work on overfishing was chosen by Discover magazine as the outstanding discovery of 2001. He has served on committees of the National Research Council, the Advisory Board of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, and the Science Commission of the Smithsonian Institution.



Jackson, J. B. C. 1997 . Reefs since Columbus. Coral Reefs 16 (suppl.):S23-S32.

Jackson, J. B. C. 2001 . What was natural in the coastal oceans? PNAS 98:5411-5418.

Jackson, J. B. C. et al. 2001 . Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems.     Science 293: 629-638.

Jackson, J. B. C. and Sala, E. 2001 . Unnatural oceans. Scientia Marina 65 (suppl. 2):273-281.

Streaming Video: Each clip is in QuickTime format runs approximately 9.5 minutes.  The Quick Time Previewer is free and can be downloaded from :

If using a PC:  Right click mouse > Select 'save target as' > open once downloaded.