Reviews for Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

**Awarded Rachel Carson Book Award (Honourable Mention) by the U.S Society of Environmental Journalists. Judges’ comments: Far more than a monograph about the plight of a single wildlife species, ”The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: An Investigation into the Scapegoating of Canada’s Grey Seal” packs a lot of punch into 192 pages. Pannozzo takes readers deep inside the world of seal hunting while making a case for how government officials have seemingly used the seal as a scapegoat for the collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery when they should have, instead, been looking at the government’s own mismanagement of cod stocks. By blaming seals and proposing large-scale culls, officials have deflected attention away from the more difficult and complex issues of climate change and destructive fishing methods, she argues. The author goes well beyond the obvious with independent research, vivid scene-setting and eloquent writing while questioning the motives of government officials. This tale of a species attempting to make a comeback in the face of adversity is an outstanding examination of the environmental consequences of bureaucratic finger-pointing.

Praise for The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea:

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is one of the most significant books to appear in modern times. With astonishing and terrifying clarity and passion it tolls a fearful tocsin. Unless we vastly improve upon our treatment of the oceans, all animate creation may pay a fatal price for our abuse, and the devil will have added a new and frightful realm to hell.

Farley Mowat, author of Sea of Slaughter

Linda Pannozzo, a meticulous researcher and a gifted writer, has written a powerful study of the scapegoating of the grey seal for the failure of cod to recover. Her book mercilessly documents the ignorance and arrogance that underpin our futile attempts to “manage” the ocean environment. Ultimately, her work shows that healing the seas will require profound change not in other species, but in our own.

Silver Donald Cameron, Canadian journalist, author, and playwright

Very clearly presented, well written, and fair.

Jeffrey Hutchings, Department of Biology, Dalhousie University

Seals eat fish and, hence, if you kill all the seals, you should get more fish. This is the logic of the “culling programs” in Newfoundland and Labrador, but also that of the Japanese whaling industry, with the whale replacing the seals. Except that it ain’t so, as Linda Pannozzo shows in ‘The Devil in a Deep Blue Sea’, which explains, among other things that marine mammals can often increase the population of fish we like, by feeding on their predators and competitors, which are often fish we don’t like. This is not really complicated, but you need to think before you go bashing seals. This is what this excellent book is about.

Daniel Pauly, Fisheries Scientist, University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre

 Linda Pannozzo brilliantly illustrates how grey seals have been politically, ethically, emotionally, and physically sacrificed to divert attention from the scientifically managed annihilation of Canada’s cod fisheries and their failure to recover. As cod face immanent biological extinction over twenty years on from a fishing moratorium designed by DFO to save them we learn that toxins from the St. Lawrence river are contaminating the habitat needed for healthy cod; that scientific diet studies on how much cod seals eat produce extremely variable results depending on the techniques used; that ocean acidification is influencing cod’s food sources; and that even complex ecosystem models of sea creatures fail to capture experiences with actual living beings and their endangered milieus.

The research behind this story of sacrifice is extremely thorough, balanced and up to date, but most important to me, Pannozzo provides the context behind the scapegoating of grey seals.  Revealing are the many stalls, roadblocks and gag orders she encounters as prolific public relations staff attempt to manage the questions she is allowed to ask and the answers federal scientists are allowed to give in Stephen Harper’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  We are shown the reality and rapidity of changes brought on by Omnibus Bill C-38 to the functioning of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  After much time and Access to Information (ATIP) requests the Kafkaesque episode comes to an end with a revealing email trail through eighteen communications employees in the federal DFO spread over three provincial offices. 

But this book is worth reading for much more than the epilogue, the many complex issues Pannozzo uncovers as factors influencing the lack of cod recovery should be mandatory reading for all of us interested in fish, seals and other sea life.  What The Devil in the Deep Blue Sea ultimately illustrates is the urgency of the need to change our relationships with fish, seals and all other marine life.  Understanding the scapegoating of grey seals for the commercial cod fisheries collapse and its failure to recover is the necessary first step before beginning to reimagine and reestablish appropriate relationships between fish and people on Canada’s east coast.  If a new relationship is established we will have reached a point where our culture can understand the true sacrifice and loss associated with the commercial extinction of the cod fishery and the fisheries failure to be encouraged to recover.

Dean Bavington, author of Managed Annihilation: An Unnatural History of the Newfoundland Cod Collapse. 

Linda Pannozzo succeeds in presenting a well researched and satisfyingly balanced treatment of the controversial relationships that exist between cod, seals and humans. It is presented in a well written and clear manner, accessible to both a lay and scientific audience. In the selection of ideas presented in this frank narrative, she demonstrates an incisive understanding of the core issues at hand that is sometimes viscerally uncomfortable. Most importantly, she highlights the very important role that our values play in altering our perception of these relationships and our need to move beyond such biases. In so doing, she calls us to action, to come to terms with the much more important and difficult task at hand of renegotiating and re-envisioning our relationship with our world and our selves. I hope this book is read by many, especially our youth, to whom we pass the torch as stewards of a fragile yet hopeful future. 

–Jae S. Choi, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Fisheries & Oceans Canada

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea documents circumstances leading to two current, related debates in fisheries management for Atlantic Canada: that grey seals are the reason cod have failed to recover since the moratorium on that fishery; and the proposal that a cull of this population of seals will benefit cod populations. Linda Pannozzo has done a great deal of work to present the social, scientific, and managerial conditions that have led to this debate. While there is a tone of opposition to the cull throughout the book, this is not  surprising as the author clearly presents her perspective in the forward.

This book gives good insights into fisheries science, fisheries management and principles of ecological interactions, as well as the effect of politics and human perception on these issues. Occasionally the book delves into details of seemingly distant topics (e.g. ITQs, MSY, ecological interactions, history of fisheries management) the purpose of which sometimes seems unclear, however this is partially due to the inter-relatedness of these topics with the subject of this book. 

This book is easy to read and interesting. It concludes powerfully; both her last chapter and the epilogue. Many readers will benefit by seeing what lies beyond the ‘tip of the iceberg’ that is fisheries science and management. Because all wildlife are a public resource managed by our government for the benefit of all (current and future) Canadians, we should all be more aware of debates and decisions that affect our natural heritage. Reading this book will help to increase that awareness.

—    Sean Brillant, Manager, Marine Programs, Canadian Wildlife Federation

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea has achieved more than a thorough scientific investigation of scapegoating marine mammals in Canadian fisheries. Linda Pannozzo has done an amazing job of distilling the complexities of marine ecosystems to demonstrate the challenge of making any cause and effect claims about marine food webs….the devil is in the details. Understanding these complexities requires a fundamental reshaping of our perceptions around how marine ecosystem form and how humans impact them. The book is impeccably researched and makes for an interesting read.

— Scott Wallace, Senior Research Scientist, David Suzuki Foundation

Spurred by the government’s decision to change the Wilderness Areas Protection Act to allow for commercial sealing on Hay Island, a protected area off the southeast coast of Cape Breton, author and researcher Linda Pannozzo sought to clarify the relationship between the grey seal and cod. While presenting at the public hearings needed to change the law, she learned from Dalhousie University scientists that there was no scientific evidence that grey seals were preventing the recovery of the cod population. So why the cull?

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, published in October 2013, is an extremely thorough and well-researched exploration of that question. Pannozzo talks with a variety of people involved in the decision and in cod, seal, and marine food web research to pinpoint an answer. Readers are taken down many fascinating paths into seal tracking research, the surprising difficulty of studying seal diet, historical accounts of seal and cod populations, controversies in marine food web modeling, legal requirements of seal hunts, predicted effects of climate change on seal whelping grounds, and more, to piece together the relationship between grey seals and cod.

– Katie Schleit, Ecology Action Centre, Halifax

In the Media:

Radio interview with broadcaster, Paul Kellogg at the Bluenose Opera House (June, 2014)

Finding Solutions, The David Suzuki Foundation (April, 2014 issue)

Canadian Wildlife Magazine (March/ April, 2014 issue)

Robert Devet’s piece about the book for The Halifax Media Co-op

Global Morning News: Debunking the Seal-Cod Equation (November, 2013)

Radio interview on CKDU’s program Habitat with Robert Devet (December 20, 2013)

Radio interview on environmental show Ecolibrium: CKUT (90.3 FM) in Montreal with Ryan Young (January 28, 2014) [Note: The interview with Linda doesn't start until 15 minutes into the recording]

Tim Bousquet’s piece for The Coast