Footprints in the Sand

Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 8 PM

Episode 2: Description

Humans have always lived along the Earth’s varied coastlines. For tens of thousands of years the ocean has nurtured and inspired us, and we lived in balance with its seemingly endless bounty.

All that has changed.

In Footprints in the Sand we explore how our growing demands are changing the ocean. Many of those changes are most strongly felt in the zones where land meets sea. Overfishing, pollution, over-population, and over-development of our coasts are having deadly consequences.

Overfishing, Pollution and Dead Zones

We begin our coastal exploration in the world’s most historic sea: the Mediterranean. The modern day Mediterranean is the site of intense coastal activity, and one of the ocean’s most stressed ecosystems. It is also the site of the bluefin tuna’s losing battle with humans. One of the most impressive fish in the sea, the bluefin tuna is disappearing at an alarming rate.

Footprints in the Sand is witness to a dying tradition. In Spain we’re on board for the frenetic activity of the “almadraba” – a traditional way of tuna fishing that has lasted for some 3,000 years. It’s an intense struggle between fishers and fish, and one that may be reaching its end. We meet both fishermen and experts who point the finger at the huge industrial fishery for the severe decline in tuna numbers. Bluefin tuna are the most prized fish on the global market, so their appeal is obvious. 

From overfishing to the pollution we’re pouring into the sea: Footprints in the Sand travels down the mighty Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico to document an ominous problem. Dead zones .  Dead zones are de-oxygenated areas where marine species can no longer survive. They are springing up like pox all over the planet, and doubling every decade. Most of them are caused by our actions that take place far from shore.

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico has grown in size and persistence and is now one of the largest on the planet. Footprints in the Sand accompanies one of the world-renowned experts on dead zones, Dr. Nancy Rabalais, as she embarks on her 25th annual expedition to map the Gulf’s dead zone. The news is not good for sea life, or for humans who make a living off the rich, productive waters of the Gulf.

Sustainable Practices

On the island of Zanzibar Footprints in the Sand joins local marine scientist, Dr. Narriman Jiddawi, as she documents declines in the coastal reef fish populations. But even here there are glimmers of hope. Jiddawi is experimenting with sustainable practices that are paying off for local women and their communities.

On the other side of the planet we see that, despite the changes that we have wrought, vast stretches of extraordinary beauty remain. New Zealand is one of those places. It is a world leader in conservation, both on land and on the sea. A lot of the credit goes to legendary marine biologist and conservationist, Bill Ballantine. Thanks to him, there is once again a feast of colourful fish, darting over the reefs and through kelp forests at Goat Island Bay and Poor Knight’s reserve.

Footprints in the Sand explores what has happened to our coasts over time. The episode reveals the devastation we have unleashed through pollution and development, and the places of recovery that can give us hope for a healthy future ocean.

The series One Ocean is produced by CBC’s the nature of things and Merit Motion Pictures, in association with National Geographic Channels International. Footprints in the Sand is directed by Jacqueline Corkery and produced by Tina Verma. The Series Producer is Caroline Underwood and the Executive Producer is Michael Allder.