Catalogue of Marine Life

Edward F. Ricketts
September 1, 1925

It should be borne in mind (and this applies especially to local marine forms) that we must, above all else, avoid depleting the region by over-collecting. One or more formerly rich regiions, according to reliable authorities, already afford instances of the ease with which depletion is brought about. Monterey bay is probably richer in individuals and species than any other region of like size in the United States, and it would be unfortunate if such a situation were to arise here. [to be compiled fully at a later time after I obtain a copy of the catalogue]

Compiled by
Robert 'Roy' J. van de Hoek
Field Biologist & Geographer
Sierra Club, Wetlands Action Network, National Audubon Society

The "Marine Life Catalogue" was the second published writing of Ed Ricketts. An article by Ed Ricketts about his travels through Appalachia was also published in 1925, just three months earlier in June, in the magazine entitled Travel. From this humble beginning of two small publications would result two magnificent books, both of which are considered classics. The 300 page book on marine biology and ecology of the estuaries, sandy beaches, and rocky tidepools of the Pacific coast of California, northwest Baja, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and British Columbia (Canada) is in its fifth edition; it is still in print (63 years - 1939 to 2002) and is still entitled Between Pacific Tides. A second book, equally famous, of about 500 pages was published with John Steinbeck, in 1940, entitled: Sea of Cortez. Both books are about marine biology, travel, and philosophy. From that humble beginning of writing to these two books, 15 years had passed (1925-1939/40). Writing and thinking and collecting the information that encompasses marine biology, travel, and philosophy, does take time.

The analysis of the Marine Catalogue by Joel Hedgpeth is appropriate to quote here as follows: "The catalogue includes two photographs of Ed collecting material; in one of them, he is picking up a large red urchin. Ironically, these animals are now very scarce at the comparatively high intertidal region suggested in the photograph. It was Ricketts' good fortune to see the Monterey area in its lusher, pre-pollution days; and, as we now realize, seashore life was perhaps unnaturally abundant because sea otters had been drastically reduced for many decades. Now that sea otters are returning in some numbers, their role as the controlling predator of the seashore animals is becoming understood. This would not be the time to depend on Monterey Bay as the source for a biological supply business. . . The catalogue was not Ed's only literary effort in 1925; he also published an article on the walk he had made from Indianapolis to Savannah in 1921. It is a pleasantly reminiscent account that reveals his interest in all sorts and conditions of men, although he disingenuously attributes the reason for taking this walk to overwork at the university instead of what it actually was: an escape from a romantic entanglement."

The quoted excerpt from Edward Ricketts' marine catalogue was transcribed from The Outer Shores. That book was was compiled, introduced, and edited by Joel Hedgpeth. The discussion about Sea Otters by Joel Hedgpeth in relation to the writings and era of Ricketts' life in the 1920s-1940s at Pacific Grove and Monterey is significant indeed.