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Ocean Conservation Priorities for 2041

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


Another year, another set of ocean conservation priorities. As with the last 5 years, there will be some new ones, and some repeats. The biggest issues shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, plastics have been an issue forever and global norming is rapidly taking over the broader ocean conversation. For a refresher, check out our priorities for 2036, 2037, 2038, 2039, and 2040.

Sea Level Rise Induced Habitat Loss: This has been a big one on the docket the last few years. As the ocean rises many species are experiencing dramatic loss of habitat, especially sensitive coastal nursery grounds. Although we’ve known about this for a while, we haven’t even begun to quantify the extent of damage to marine populations. Salt inundation is also compromising coast terrestrial habitats, driving essential species further inland.

Destructive Biomining: What used to be called bioprospecting–searching for useful pharmaceuticals in nature, has evolved into a full scale biomining industry. Massive machines are scraping the seafloor for novel compounds that may have medical or other commercial applications. Biomining can be extremely destructive and despite potentially severe environmental impacts, remains almost wholly unregulated.

Overfishing: Overfishing seems to function on a 15-year cycle, with smart, effective regulations resulting in a boom in managed fish populations, followed by an influx of new fishermen, a growing industry, and, consequently, a fresh round of overfishing. You’d think we’d learn, but the reality is that every generation needs to be re-educated on the impacts of overfishing and the need for robust annual limits. This year it looks like we are approaching another fishing peak.

Ocean Plastics: It never ends. An immortal material used in one-time-use products. We still have no good way of getting plastic out of the ocean on a global scale, and though the tide has ebbed, hundreds of tons of new plastic still enter our oceans every year, while we’re still dealing with the plastic produced before any of us were even born.

Global Norming: Global Norming is the new environmental catastrophe on the block. As global commerce and transportation has become cheaper, faster, and far less restrictive, the transport of invasive species is increasing exponentially. As local fauna are displaced by more competitive invasive species, the global ecosystem is normalizing–in other words, local diversity is being lost and replaced with globally abundant species, resulting in the homogenization of the planet, limited only by climate and geologic conditions. In other words, go to any coral reef on the equator and, in a few short decades, it will look like every coral reef on the equator.

These are my picks for the most pressing ocean issues for 2041. Feel free to share the issues most critical to you in the comments below.


On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


Deep-sea biologist, population/conservation geneticist, backyard farm advocate. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.


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