Sea Change is the result of months of research by photographer Steve Ringman and reporter Craig Welch, who traveled from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in the North Pacific to Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific to detail what is at stake as ocean chemistry changes.
Nearly every important peer-reviewed study available — hundreds in all — was examined for the project. About 150 people in the United States and around the world were interviewed, while scientists in a half-dozen countries were coaxed into sharing early glimpses of pending research to make sure readers received the most up-to-date work in the proper context. Welch and Ringman visited hatcheries, research labs and fish-processing plants in four states.
When the pair first approached Katharina Fabricius of the Australian Institute of Marine Science about tagging along on an expedition to Papua New Guinea’s carbon-dioxide vents, she was skeptical. Malaria rates were so high in the region that some of the dive boat’s crew was sick. The waters off Normanby and Dobu islands are frequented by tiger sharks and saltwater crocodiles, and are hundreds of miles from medical facilities. And neither Ringman nor Welch had ever been diving.
The journalists trained together in frigid Puget Sound in December and January. They took the four-day journey by plane to Alotau, Papua New Guinea, then boarded the 60-foot boat chartered by Fabricius. They spent eight days living with scientists, meeting area villagers and diving with local fishermen at night as they speared their meals.
In Dutch Harbor, Ringman boarded a crab boat for what turned out to be one of the most treacherous trips the crew had experienced in years. Storms buffeted the boat during the 10-day trip, and the Bering Sea ice pack dragged crab pots for miles. The weather slowed the trip down so much that Ringman never made it back to Dutch Harbor. The crew eventually dropped him off in the remote Pribilof Islands, where the boat was forced to refuel.
Additional installments of the series will explore the ability of marine species to adapt to acidification, the future of food in fish-dependent cultures, and what can be done to stem the marine world’s decline.
The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting supported the project with a $19,000 grant for international travel.
The Pulitzer Center has supported reporting on a wide range of ocean issues, from depleting fisheries in the Sea of Cortez to the dramatic impact of climate change on the people and economy of the Arctic. For more information see pulitzercenter.org/oceans.
Reporter: Craig Welch
Photographer/videographer: Steve Ringman
Graphic artists/animation: Mark Nowlin, Lazaro Gamio
Editor: Jim Simon
Art director/graphics: Whitney Stensrud
Art director/design: Susan Jouflas
Photo editor: Fred Nelson
Video editors: Danny Gawlowski, Genevieve Alvarez
Visual designer: Mark Evans
Digital editor/designer: Katrina Barlow
Developer: Benjamin Turner
Copy editor: Kris Higginson
Digital engagement: Bob Payne, Evan Bush
Project manager: Denise Clifton
Managing editors: Kathy Best, Suki Dardarian
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