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A hole in one's thinking - not ozone layer, pop-environmentalist debunker tells NFI.

Despite warnings from environmentalists to the contrary, the sky is not falling down over ozone-oozing Antarctica. That's what Dr. Dixy Lee Ray told delegates attending the National (US) Fisheries Institute Convention in Palm Desert, Calif.

The ex-governor of Washington and former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission said that the so-called "hole" in the stratosphere's ozone layer (which forms a protective barrier against damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun) is a predictable component of a cyclical pattern of natural chemical formation and degradation. It is not, she stressed, the result of synthetic chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

"It's not a hole at all," according to the governor, but rather a temporary breakdown of unstable molecules. The fluctuation typically persists for three to five weeks, she added, after which the sun comes up again over the South Pole and ozone levels are restored. The process is ongoing as long as the sun shines.

South Pole ozone levels go down every year, during the southern hemisphere's spring. Unlike the North Pole, storms form at the planet's southern extreme and whip up strong, disruptive air flows.

Separate measurements recently taken by instruments aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) balloon and a National Atmospheric and Space Administration (NASA) satellite suggest that the scope of depletion now encompasses some 8.9 million square miles. That is an area larger than any other previously measured ozone "hole." Samuel Oltmans of NOAA'S climate monitoring laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, reported that one reading showed no ozone at all was detected between nine and 11 miles above the South Pole and a record level of depletion between seven and nine miles in altitude.

Some scientists believe that the greater than normal depletion may have been caused by a combination of CFCs and natural chemicals remaining aloft from the 1991 volcanic eruptions in the Philippines and Chile.

Dr. Ray, while not addressing the volcano connection theory in her speech to the NFI, was keen on debunking what she called a misconception about environmental degradation caused by man-made chemicals: "There is absolutely no evidence that CFCs deplete ozone... CFC molecules are big and heavy, weighing much more than air. How do they fly up into the atmosphere and cross diverge to destroy ozone at the South Pole? It doesn't make any sense at all.

"This would all be very academic were it not for the association of ozone depletion with skin cancer. But actually the amount of ultraviolet radiation has not penetrated more - so say the instruments."

Nonetheless, Dr. Ray continued, political pressure from scientifically-suspect environmental groups has moved many governments of the industrial world to rush into adopting the Montreal Protocol, which calls for phasing out use of all CFCs starting with Freon in 1995. Mere possession of prohibited chemicals would result in daily fines ranging in the thousands of dollars.

What does all this mean for those involved in the fish business? Plenty, since the international food distribution system relies greatly on refrigerated transport. In addition, retail merchandising cabinets and domestic-use refrigerators operate with CFCs.

"The loss of Freon will cost the United States economy alone an estimated $3 to $5 trillion," said Ray. But don't worry, business will go on - though not as efficiently as usual.

Dupont has come up with a replacement for soon-to-be illegal refrigerants, she told the NFI. "The only problem is that it will cost ten times more than Freon. And it's so corrosive that equipment will have to be completely redesigned and reengineered. So you will be paying ten times more for refrigeration that will probably break down in three years."

Dr. Ray is convinced that the general public has been hookwinked by alarmist cries from environmentalists over a number of issues having direct bearing on the future of the seafood industry. Among them are global warming, chemical phobia and endangered species laws.

The CFC controversy, however, is likely to be the most costly to consumers in the near-term. "And yet there is absolutely no evidence to back this (ozone depletion fear) up," charged Ray. "It's entirely based on computer models. Garbage in, garbage out."

Donald Short New President

Of National Fisheries Inst.

Donald J. Short, president of Fishery Products International USA, was elected president of the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) at the organization's 47th annual convention held recently in Palm Desert, Calif. He will serve a one-year term.

Other national officers who assumed posts at the convention are: Jim Salmon of General Mills Restaurants, first vice president; Les Hodgson of Marco Sales, Inc., secretary; Jack Mitsakopoulos of Chicago Fish House, treasurer; John Filose of Ocean Garden Products, assistant treasurer.

The NFI is a trade association of over 1,000 companies involved in all aspects of the USA fish and seafood industry - producers, processors, wholesalers, distributors, brokers, importers, exporters and allied members.
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Title Annotation:scientist Dixy Lee Ray speaks to National Fisheries Institute conference in Palm Desert, California
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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