Vancouver Sun

A valuable resource on our local waters

- LARRY PYNN lpynn@vancouvers­

The Sea Among Us is not a coffee-table book. For the most part, it’s also not a book you’d curl up with on a rainy night with a glass of wine. But it is an important book, taking a complex and vital ecosystem on our doorstep, boiling it down into understand­able language, and, with any luck, convincing us to protect it — for the marine life and for ourselves.

The Sea Among Us is edited by two longtime federal fisheries scientists, Richard Beamish and Gordon (Sandy) McFarlane, from the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo. Beamish credits The Vancouver Sun’s award-winning Fate of the Strait coverage — first launched in 1998 and updated through 2005 — as impetus for the book. Sun reporter Jeff Lee got the idea for the series after attending an investigat­ive journalism conference in the U.S. and reading a special report on the decline of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

Like the water it covers, The Sea Among Us is not consistent­ly smooth territory. Readers may find it jarring to navigate through 10 chapters by different authors.

Terry Glavin writes with the eloquence you’d expect of a seasoned journalist as he presents the pre-contact era of the strait. Andrew Trites, director of the marine mammal research unit at the University of B.C., does a surprising­ly good job of putting marine science into everyday language — a gift that precious few scientists have. John Clague, a geologist at Simon Fraser University, takes a more meat-and-potatoes look at his respective area of expertise. It may not be sexy to write about Pleistocen­e sediments or a crustal depression, but Clague, to his credit, makes millions of years of earth history seem relevant. Likewise, for the physical ocean chapter by Richard Thomson, who had a long career at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney. He shows how our local waters are profoundly influenced by far-reaching climate systems, including El Niño and — take a sip of water — the Pacific decadal oscillatio­n.

The Sea Among Us is also rich in maps, graphics and photos that provide additional layers of knowledge for readers. Ultimately, it should serve as both an educationa­l textbook and a valuable reference for anyone interested in our local waters. Personally, this is one book that won’t stray far from my office desk, a reliable compilatio­n of all things wet and wild in the Strait of Georgia.

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