Edward Ueber

Precious Drops

Recorded: May 28, 2014

How important is freshwater to the ocean?  According to former Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones Sanctuary manager, Edward Ueber, the freshwater that flows through estuaries to the sea are critical for the survival of marine life. He explains that we need to maintain freshwater flows to the ocean rather than building desalination plants. Ed has a compelling solution to the problem.

Edward Ueber is a passionate defender of our nation’s marine resources and a former marine sanctuary manager with extensive knowledge about the ocean.  The ocean has been an integral part of Ed’s life since he was a child growing up near Long Island Sound.  He has been involved in professional marine activities since the 1960s, as a navigator and pilot in the Merchant Marines and on Navy nuclear submarines.  He received a MS in Fishery Economics and in 1976 he went to work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Commission (NOAA) under the National Marine Fisheries Service.

In 1980, Ed was on the committee to review the Gulf of the Farallones as a possible marine sanctuary, and in 1981, it was designated as such. He became the sanctuary’s first superintendent managing Cordell Bank and the Gulf of the Farallones Sanctuary. He has also managed sections of the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary as well. Mr. Ueber would like to see all waters under similar protection as marine sanctuaries in California.

Edward Ueber has published peer-reviewed papers on fish biology, fishing techniques, global warming, fishery economics, fish trade, fishery management, wooden boat building, wooden ship reconstruction, oceanography and marine operations.

Some of his accomplishments include starting volunteer programs like the local Marine Sanctuary Beach Watch and SEALS (harbor seal protection and education) programs, opening three visitor centers (a new trend for the sanctuary system) and creating non-profit organizations, like the Farallon Marine Sanctuary Association.  He also upheld the Sanctuary program’s scientific mission with an intertidal monitoring program, a new ecosystem oceanographic evaluating system, and deep sea studies.

Some of his awards include the NOAA Excellence Award for Coastal Ocean Management and the “Local Ocean Hero” from the Smithsonian Institute’s Ocean Planet Exhibit (1996). Recent awards include the Distinguished Achievement Award from the University of Rhode Island for his sanctuary work, and the Bay Hero Award from the Bay Institute in 2014.


[Music] Edward Ueber:    It’s a terrible situation when people think they can exploit something forever and not do any harm.  Diversion of water, you know this idea that freshwater coming down in an estuary, through an estuary and then out into the ocean, is water wasted, you know.  It’s like saying blood going to your toes is blood wasted.  I mean, it just– it doesn’t work that way.  The ocean has a regime it needs to maintain and fresh water in certain places is incredibly important to the biota because many organisms spawn or have their young in brackish or estuarean waters.  And so, when you remove the freshwater you remove the brackishness, and you get saltwater intrusion at levels and salinity levels that little critters can’t handle and they die.

Huey Johnson:    There’s a great intense discussion on d-sal, desalinization, people–I’m sure populations continue to explode– and they say, “Well, we’ll just desalt sea water.”

Edward Ueber:    It’s been done for thousands and thousands of years, usually it was done to get the salt.

Huey Johnson:    Yeah.

Edward Ueber:    But now we do it to get the water.  De-sal is not a solution, it’s a terminal surrender of what as humans, we’re capable of doing.  We could easily cut our water use by 50%.  The farmers, if they took the time, could plant crops like they do in Israel and you’d drip and still make a profit, but maybe not as big a profit.  And we need to cut back on the use of fresh water.  In California, 30 to 40 percent of all the energy produced, is used to pump water.  We can’t continue in that fashion.  When we’re fracking for gas, we use millions of gallons of water; we can’t afford to do that with any water, no less with the water which sustains life.  So I think desal is done by rich societies who are unwilling to regulate the use of the water that they have to get maximum efficiency from it.