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Fishing for answers.

Thank you for the outstanding coverage of the problems facing the world's oceans ("Ocean Rescue," cover story, July/August 2005). As the articles point out, two blue-ribbon commissions have separately come to the same conclusion: our oceans are in trouble and the time for action is now. However, your discussion of one solution--individual fishing quotas--left out an issue in which citizens can play a crucial role.

The problems associated with individual fishing quotas--privatizing a publicly owned resource, dubious environmental benefits, and detrimental impacts on coastal communities--cannot be remedied solely through community fishing quotas. We are supportive of community fishing quotas, but along with the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, recognize the need for national standards to guide the development of any fishing quota programs. Such standards should prevent privatization, ensure that marine environments are protected and work to keep fishing communities strong. Readers can help get these standards put into law by calling on their Congressional representatives to endorse H.R. 3278, the Fishing Quota Standards Act of 2005. To learn more, please visit

Lee Crockett, Executive Director

Marine Fish Conservation Network

Washington, DC

Thank you for your important articles about the threats facing our seas. Sadly, we cannot depend on legislation or the fishing industry to solve these problems. We each need to take personal responsibility for the cruelty and devastation that are occurring in our oceans. Indiscriminate fishing practices such as long lining (ships unreel as much as 75 miles of line bristling with hundreds of thousands of baited hooks) and purse seining are stripping the oceans clean of sea life. Scientists recently found that nearly 1,000 marine mammals--including dolphins, whales and porpoises--die each day after being caught in fishing nets.

And don't forget about the suffering endured by the fish themselves. One People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) staffer went out on a commercial gill netter, and she watched as fish after fish was violently extracted from the net. Hundreds of fish were squeezed and torn out of the tangle. Then they were roughly tossed into a metal bin; many were vomiting up their guts, their eyes bulging from the pressure changes. Their gill arches were slit and they were thrown into the next bin, where they twitched and gasped, slowly bleeding to death.

We can all make a difference today--whether Capitol Hill does or not--simply by not eating fish. To learn other ways you can help, please visit

Karin Robertson, Manager

Fish Empathy Project, PETA

Norfolk, VA

In all the recent discussion about commercial fishing, we note the absence of any reference to the importance of vessel design itself in terms of sustainability. In your articles, Rod Fujita comes close and yet stops short.

At Phil Bolger and Friends, we have proposed since 2002 an ecologically and economically advanced vessel. Based on a low-horsepower, long, lean, unsinkable, offshore-capable geometry, this could be built and maintained locally--using mostly renewable resources--and would be highly fuel-efficient. By putting fishermen in smaller, cheaper boats, they will be able to support themselves catching fewer fish. The pressure to beat quotas will be reduced, since fishermen won't have as much debt as they did with larger boats.

Despite the inherent logic of this rather uncomplicated approach to sustainability, we know of no institutions, organizations or advocacy groups pursuing research along those lines. And the Magnusson-Stevenson Act actually forces less sustainable fishing boat designs in its codified incomprehension of basic naval engineering. Put polemically it classifies a 60-foot long, 600-horsepower trawler the same way as a 60-foot, eight-oared rowing shell!

Since 2002, we've offered our local fleet pro bono design proposals. And even with state and federal R&D funding within reach, there's been next to no interest. Everyone else seems to be preoccupied cursing "eco-terrorists" and chanting for "more fish." In this context, the Bush administrations ocean policies seem among the smaller obstacles.

Susanne Altenburger

Phil Bolger and Friends

Gloucester, MA
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Title Annotation:ADVICE & DISSENT: Letters from our readers
Author:Altenburger, Susanne
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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