Earth Island Institute logo, tap or click to visit the Institute home page

Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Issues > Fall 2003 > Letters




Six-month-old fish letters

Thanks to David Helvarg for his piece "The Last Fish." (Spring 2003 EIJ) It's an old story, but his overview of government and private mismanagement of our fisheries reserves will be useful to the younger folks who read your journal and don't know the history.

I served as a fisheries observer in the mid-1980s to early 1990s in three of the regions (northwest, northeast and southwest). At the time, I didn't know that my supervisors had conflict of interest exemptions, but it makes sense. The company representatives, the ship captains and their attorneys and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) brass were generally on very friendly terms. They formed a bulwark against any fishery observers who might have had the audacity to report violations they had witnessed while serving on the commercial fishing vessels.

The observers formed the weak link in the management chain, and were punished, in one way or another, if they disembarked from a trip with unsolicited reports of violations. The only people who demonstrated an ounce of integrity were the federal lawyers who were assigned to prosecute some of the fishing companies, and they often met with a good deal of resistance from NMFS.

The effect was that observers who had any integrity were harassed or blacklisted out the program; only the more tractable observers remained. I have little faith in the overall quality of data that came out of that program in terms of numerical reports on marine mammal mortality and commercial fish take.

Thanks again for David and his article. I'll be looking for more!
Randy Raider
Brookings, Oregon

In his reply to W.B. Leavenworth, David Helvarg comments on the breaching of the Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River at Augusta, Maine in 1999. While that act did open an additional 17 miles of the Kennebec to anadromous fish, it came at a very high price. The funds for the removal of that dam came from Bath Iron Works (BIW), a military shipbuilder at the mouth of the Kennebec, the parent company of which is General Dynamics. Desirous of converting from inclined ways to level land production, BIW cut a deal with the EPA and the Corps of Engineers to finance the removal of the dam as mitigation for filling in five acres of critical shortnosed sturgeon nursery habitat at the river's mouth. Most of Maine's mainstream conservation groups cheered the deal.

I was among a very few enviros who protested this arrangement, the clear problem being we are creating more spawning habitat while at the same time reducing critical nursery habitat. It did not then, nor does it now, make sense. I now am working with Living Rivers of Moab, Utah, and we are going to take down the Glen Canyon Dam, before the Grand Canyon is destroyed.
Peter Neils
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Editor's note: Those of you who enjoyed David's piece -- which received more comment than any story in recent issues of EIJ -- might be pleased to hear that he's formed a new non-profit with Ralph Nader to work for ocean protection, even if that means, David tells us, "having to stay on in DC for awhile longer, far from the bodysurfing, diving, sailing and other siren attractions of the everlasting sea." Your tax-deductible contributions are welcome at:
Oceans Awareness Project, PO Box 19367, Washington DC 20005.

But if all siz billion people joined earth Island...
David Brower (Outside Magazine, July 1998) clearly stated: "The leadership are fooling themselves. Overpopulation is a very serious problem, and overimmigration is a big part of it. We must address both. We can't ignore either."

He was referring to the Sierra Club, but he might as well have been referring to the EII and the EIJ!

Why do you ignore both?
Pat Kittle
Santa Cruz, California

Editor's note:Earth Island Journal welcomes pitches for articles on any environmental subject, including population or immigration-related issues. Issues taken up by Earth Island Institute reflect the varying missions of our network of projects. Activists wishing to form new projects to tackle any of the myriad environmental issues facing us (again, including population) are welcome to inquire about how to achieve project status.

We welcome your letters. Editor, EIJ, 300 Broadway, Suite 28, San Francisco CA 94133,


Email this article to a friend.

Write to the editor about this article.

Comments are closed for this post


Four issues for just
$15 a year.

cover thumbnail EIJ

Join Now!