Sea Our Point

Advise & Dissent


I wanted to congratulate you for publishing such an important story on the global fisheries crisis. Your cover story by Dick Russell, “Vacuuming the Seas,” July/August 1996, was clearly well-researched and well-written. In fact, the Network used it as an informational “drop” in the U.S. Senate, where we fought a difficult battle to reform federal fisheries laws through the successful reauthorization of the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Bill Mott
The Marine Fish Conservation Network
Washington, D.C.

I write with regard to your feature story, “Vacuuming the Seas” by Dick Russell. I thought that the author did a thorough and excellent job. I was particularly impressed with the balance with which he discussed the problem as well as the economic and political pressures in the councils that make solutions very difficult. My only complaint is that he used some data which are outdated; had he used 1996 data rather than 1989, I suspect that the declining catches would have been even more serious.

The issue of bycatch is perhaps the most serious, and deserves much more space than the sidebar you had in the last story. Here the data are usually only available from the fishermen themselves, and it is damned near impossible to actually acquire hard information that accurately portrays the serious nature of the problem.

Another issue of great concern is the physical destruction of the ocean’s bottom by draggers. The recent development of so-called “rock hopper” gear is eliminating the last of the bottom communities before it is even possible to rigorously evaluate the roles of nurseries or even the presence of communities that have important intrinsic values of their own. I assert that there are few, if any, areas of the world’s continental slopes that are worth fishing that have not already been dragged to the point of being completely changed.

Paul K. Dayton
Professor of Marine Ecology
University of California, San Diego


I was thoroughly disgusted after reading your article on genetic engineering, rBGH and mad cow disease, but at the same time extremely thankful (“Mad Cow and the Colonies,” feature story, July/August 1996).

As a hearty meat eater in an age where everyone is becoming vegetarian, I often ask, “What’s wrong with being an omnivore?” Now I know the answer. I don’t think I will ever give up eating meat for good, but I will surely be more careful now that I have seen the extent of the rendering industry. Not only is it unnatural to feed rendered animal carcasses to our dairy cows, it is also a dangerous practice inviting disaster.

Michael Kutzner
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI


I was saddened by the derogatory tone of Ric Oberlink’s letter in response to the “Getting Off the Treadmill” sidebar (“Enough!,” cover story, March/April 1996). Using inflammatory language to emphasize population issues, he insults a woman who has instilled in her family, and helped other people to realize, the true meaning of “standard of living.” Contrary to Mr. Oberlink’s suggestion, distributing artificial contraception to Americans merely to curb “overpopulation” will not halt our overconsumption habits.

The possibility that smaller families can indeed consume much more than larger families is evident in the statistic Jim Motavalli included in his article: A nation consisting of five percent of the world’s population consumes 80 percent of its resources and generates 80 percent of its waste!

Heather Ilse
Eau Claire, WI


Thank you for highlighting the role of professionally-managed zoos in the black-footed ferret recovery program (“Back From the Brink,” Currents, July/August 1996).

While captive breeding for reintroduction will be important for some carefully-selected species (like those that have become extinct in the wild or whose populations have become so small or fragmented that they cannot survive without human intervention), the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) and its member institutions recognize that the black-footed ferret cannot survive without a strong commitment to habitat protection.

Michael Hutchins
Conservation and Science
American Zoo and Aquarium Association
Bethesda, MD

I would like to clarify Defenders of Wildlife’s position on the role of captive breeding in support of conservation efforts as stated in “Back From the Brink.”

We support the Species Survival Plan of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. However, Defenders strongly maintains that captive breeding is not a substitute for habitat conservation, the most essential element in species recovery.

Heather L. Weiner
Legislative Counsel
Defenders of Wildlife
Washington, D.C.


Your glowing article about the Hawaiian island of Molokai (“Going Green,” July/August 1996) used the phrases “welcome to paradise,” “the friendly isle,” and “center of nativistic revival” in recommending this vacation destination. What was conspicuously absent however, was mention of the decidedly unfriendly and culturally bereft annual event called the Molokai Mule Drag. This cruel spectacle, touted as an educational fundraiser, involves teams of humans dragging mules down the street in an effort to be the first team able to cross a finish line. You claim Molokai is “no tiki-tacky tourist trap.” This ridiculous display certainly qualifies as both tiki-tacky and inhumane.

Jennifer O’Connor
Cruelty Caseworker
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Norfolk, VA


“Caught in the Crossfire,” (“Currents,” September/October 1996) incorrectly stated that all 10 mountain gorillas in Rwanda have died of human causes. In fact, only eight deaths are confirmed to be human-related; the other two are undetermined. Secondly, the complete Internet address of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project is:

The correct phone number for Common Courage Press, publishers of Toxic Sludge is Good for You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry, is tel. (800) 497-3207. The book is available for $20.95 postpaid.