Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Blue Serengeti

Blue Serengeti

Across Africa’s Serengeti Plain wildebeests and zebras and other ungulates by the millions annually make “The Great Migration,” coursing their well-worn route, feasting on the rich savannah grasses, and resting by precious watering holes.

“The Blue Serengeti” is a new name that marine biologist have given the Pacific Ocean. Millions of sharks and whales and turtles and seals and tuna likewise migrate yearly through these vast waters, thousands of miles, from Asia to the Americas and back.

“Do tuna and sharks have regular migration routes, favorite watering holes?” asked Stanford Prof. Barbara Block in a great lecture to Aquarium guides the other night.  It was she who coined the phrase, Blue Serengeti.

You can’t observe “The Great Aquatic Migration” because it takes place underwater.  Without data, fisheries managers and governments can ignore calls for regulation and conservation.  So for over ten years Block and others have attached thousands of microchipped satellite tags onto the backs or fins of all kinds of different “highly migratory marine species,” to collect data on where they swim, how deep they dive, etc. (, Tagging of Pacific Predators, map above).  She calls it “fish and chips.”

She’s proved that these Pacific Serengeti migrators, like the African ones, return to the same spots yearly to spawn and to feed.  They too long for a journey that is safe, where they can rest and feed at “watering holes” rich in food and free of danger.

Our coastal marine sanctuaries are a good start, but protection must extend into open oceans, and fishing agreements must be forged between the many different nations where these international travelers live.  Block is seeking some kind of UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the entire Blue Serengeti. 

Ours is an era of global migration and immigration, rivers of refugees, millions on the move, most in danger, pushed and pulled.  Let’s do what we can to improve the odds for safe journeys for all migrators, with watering (and feeding) holes along the way.

(Come on one our Blue Theology retreat/mission trips and experience migration and the Blue Serengeti first hand.

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