Depleting the Oceans

by John Humphreys

In a marvelous piece of writing, Michael Colebrook writes, “There is something about the sea which both attracts and frightens us. In God’s rebuke to Job, God uses the sea as the first example of the limitations of human understanding and abilities.”

Photo by David Poe

Job 38:4-11

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?

As I vacationed at the Jersey Shore this month, as usual I tried to block out the brasher elements and savor the breeze, the crash of the waves, and the beauty of the numerous shore- and sea-birds that you can see, even in the hustle and bustle of a summer resort.

And the power of the ocean always reminds me of the passage from Job, especially when lifeguards pull out a struggling swimmer or my sons and nephews surf a seven-foot wave.


The fact that the ocean is a really terrifying, awe-inspiring place has not stopped Man from achieving the seemingly impossible: leaving his trace in every single part of the sea.

His polychlorinated biphenyls are found in the fat of seals and polar bears in the Arctic, and in the penguins at the South Pole. And although when I sit on Belmar beach, I still can see terns, seagulls and pelicans pulling fish out of the sea, we all know that fishing with longlines for tuna is drowning tens of thousands of albatrosses each year–and that First World factory ships are depleting every part of the seas of all the fish they can.

Don’t get me started on so-called ‘scientific’ whaling by Iceland, Japan and now, possibly, South Korea. We have a long way to go there.

If it makes you mad — do something! Visit the Ocean Conservancy site and check out EEN’s forthcoming work on Oceans.

Just eat sustainably caught fish and shellfish –ask your grocer what he or she stocks– and learn more at

And next time you are at the beach, thank our Creator for his gift of the ocean. And pledge to do something FOR this gift.

You can read more about John’s work at

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