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The Empty Ocean

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  147 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
In The Empty Ocean, acclaimed author and artist Richard Ellis tells the story of our continued plunder of life in the sea and weighs the chances for its recovery. Through fascinating portraits of a wide array of creatures, he introduces us to the many forms of sea life that humans have fished, hunted, and collected over the centuries, from charismatic whales and dolphins t ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 15th 2004 by Island Press (first published 2003)
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Silent Spring by Rachel CarsonA Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There by Aldo LeopoldThe Lorax by Dr. SeussThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Best Environmental Books
61st out of 578 books — 765 voters
The Beast of Cretacea by Todd StrasserThe Sea Around Us by Rachel CarsonSea Change by Sylvia A. EarleNocturne, Opus 1 by Norene MoskalskiStung! by Lisa-Ann Gershwin
Ocean/Marine Conservation
6th out of 33 books — 23 voters

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Community Reviews

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May 07, 2010 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A wonderfully well-written, yet horrifying book about man's catastrophic influence on the ocean and its wildlife. I've read various articles on this topic, but seeing various species covered in a series of chapters is very sobering. This book has been on my to-read list for several years, and I can't imagine things have gotten better in the interim. The author talks about widespread overfishing, dredge nets, coral bleaching, and invasive species; but there is no mention of deoxygenated zones or ...more
Claire Francisco
Oct 29, 2015 Claire Francisco rated it really liked it
I got this book after watching the documentary "The End of the Line." It was a sobering read, although I must admit that it was also written in a very dry style that didn't allow itself to be read in chunks for long periods of time.
Amy Bailey
Aug 13, 2012 Amy Bailey rated it really liked it
This book is infinitely heart-wrenching and frightening. It makes my stomach turn to read just exactly how irresponsible we people can be and there's no end to it. I did feel this book was a bit dated. A lot has happened since 2003 and most of the studies cited were from 2001 or before. It would be interesting to see how Mr. Ellis would edit this book in today's world political climate. This is scary... too scary.
Jeff Guertin
Apr 23, 2010 Jeff Guertin rated it liked it
Shelves: own
This book contains a vast amount of information on the plight of marine animals, but it is presented in a very dry manner. The first half of the book was mostly information about fish, and I found this part of the book to be pretty boring. It got better during the second half, which began to focus on marine mammals, sea turtles, coral reefs, etc.
Aug 20, 2007 Phil rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A good overview on the dire condition of our ocean life. It goes over past extinctions as well as current ocean animals that are highly threatened. Most of the Earth's large fish species are dangerously depleted due to industrial overfishing and all ocean life is at risk. It's a fast and informative read.
Aug 13, 2007 Peggy rated it it was amazing
The Empty Ocean makes for compelling (and frightening) reading. We have always looked at the ocean as an inexhaustible resource, but Ellis makes clear we are dangerously close to killing off a number of species, and we have no idea what the consequences will be when they're gone.
Anne Fontaine
Aug 09, 2010 Anne Fontaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Please see my review at
Let me know you stopped by by leaving a comment; I'd love to know your thoughts on this subject.
Thank you! Anne
Apr 20, 2012 Catherine rated it really liked it
A must read for anyone concerned with human impacts on the planet. One of those life-changing books that empower you with information you need to make decisions as a consumer of seafood products.
Oct 25, 2012 Elizabeth marked it as to-read
As heard in the Science Times podcast.
Nov 17, 2009 Conrad marked it as to-read
I started reading this a year or two ago but it made me hyperventilate. I'm finishing it now, and it's still scary as shit.
Sep 23, 2007 Matthew rated it it was amazing
A comprehensive review of the extents of overharvesting that we humans are perpetrating in the marine environment.
Nov 02, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it
Very thoroughly researched documentation of the loss of marine species.
Dec 10, 2009 Mary rated it it was ok
This book was just never able to grab me. I struggled to finished it.
Mar 16, 2009 Sandra rated it really liked it
This should be required reading for everyone.
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Richard Ellis is a celebrated authority on marine biology and America’s foremost marine life artist whose work has been exhibited worldwide. His nine books include The Search for the Giant Squid (a Publishers Weekly 1998 Best Book of the Year), Great White Shark, Encyclopedia of the Sea, Men and Whales, Monsters of the Sea, Deep Atlantic The Book of Whales, and Imagining Atlantis.
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