Weak Links in the Food Chain

Endangered Hawaiian monk seals.

Big fish eat smaller fish, which eat even smaller ones, which eat even smaller critters, which eat …

That’s the trophic chain, which extends down to the tiniest microbes. When disrupted, the consequences can be devastating. As our cover story points out, climate change, warming oceans, and the direct impacts of fishing on top ocean predators have all contributed to shifts in the roles of various species in this network.

In the final analysis, it is nearly impossible to weaken one element
in this intricate chain of dependency without compromising the health
of the remaining ones. The system ultimately adjusts, but not always in a way that supports conditions favorable to all species.

Acknowledging the impacts that human actions have on these creatures is vital to addressing these threats. The presentations made in May to the Marine Mammal Commission – which the Trump administration would like to disband – were a good, if depressing, start in this direction.