Not being a scientist, I don't feel qualified to argue the merits of this type of research ("Tagged Out," March 30), but I did watch this particular episode, and a more bungled, amateurish operation I have never seen. The failure to insert the pins in the gate which led to this shark having a buoy in its mouth—despite one of the crew noticing on camera that the pins were missing before the operation went ahead—is just one example. These people should not be allowed within 20 miles of these sharks, let alone hooking them in a marine sanctuary. I'm stunned this was allowed to happen, and I'll be writing to whatever officials I can find to express my extreme disappointment.
Just because field biologists can perform what are really medical procedures on their animal subjects does not mean that they necessarily should do so. The fact is that they do not have the in-depth knowledge and training required by veterinary personnel, and therefore in many cases are not as careful or thorough with regard to the potential for infection or injury resulting from an invasive procedure. I have participated in a fair amount of field work on marine mammals and have worked with researchers who were very careful and concerned for the animals' welfare, as well as those who take a more "cowboy" approach, inflicting major stress and possible injury to the animal.
Any procedure on an animal has the potential to cause long-term damage. We count on animals' immune systems and healing powers to carry them through, but it does seem very counter-productive to injure or kill the very animal you are often researching in a conservation context.
Waiting for More Evidence
While I don't support the method used to land the animal, I also think that these images should have been released with a thorough explanation by the people that released them and fully in context, or not released at all. To do otherwise invites just the kind of knee-jerk speculation that is currently happening, when the fact is that there is no way to determine what the problem is without more access to the animal.
Domeier could be right, the speculation could be right or it could be something other that happened out in the middle of the ocean in the year between when the animal was last in the area and its return. The instant reaction I had when I first saw them was "Look what happened because of . . ."—and that is unfair without any other corroborating evidence. So far there has been no comment from whoever released the images. I'd like to hear all sides before a conclusion is drawn.
On a Mountaintop
I would like to urge the members of our community to take action by writing their members of Congress about the importance of halting the practice of mountaintop-removal coal mining and the significance of the Environmental Protection Agency's actions against it.
Mountaintop removal is both unsustainable for the environment and deleterious to our health. Mining companies have already destroyed over 500 mountains in Appalachia and buried about 2,000 miles of streams in coal-mining waste. Habitat has been heavily degraded and water supply heavily contaminated as a result of this irresponsible mining practice. To our advantage, the EPA has taken some steps to limit mountaintop removal. The problem now is that some members of Congress are trying to prevent the EPA from achieving further progress on this issue. These members have been lobbied by coal-mining companies to loosen the EPA's restrictions. We simply cannot let them further degrade these systems.
Whether or not we are from Appalachia or have relatives there, this is something we should all be concerned about. We are all Americans, and we need to come together to protect each other and our natural resources. Please write to your senators and representatives today and tell them to oppose and bills that prevent the EPA from protecting the people and the environment from mountaintop removal mining. Don't let our government deliberately subject the American people to these dangers.