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July 2003 Vol. 18, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the July, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Paul Tzimoulis Dies: Paul Tzimoulis, diving pioneer, renowned underwater photographer, and the publisher and driving force behind Skin Diver Magazine for three decades passed away at his home in Las Vegas on June 3. Paul made a great mark on diving and was a friend of Undercurrent from the get-go, recognizing that in the commerical world of diving, sport divers needed a voice. His wife Geri Murphy has requested that donations in his name be made to the Coral Reef Alliance (coralreefalliance. org), Ocean Conservancy (oceanconservancy.org), Ocean Futures (oceanfutures.org), or Ambassadors of the Environment (www.aote.org). Palau poaching: Authorities in Palau on May 7 burned a gasolinesoaked pile of shark fins seized from a Taiwanese vessel caught fishing illegally, sending a message that local sharks were not game for commercial fishermen. The vessel was licensed to fish in Palaun waters but was illegally targeting sharks. Authorities found more 1,760 pounds of shark fins worth as much as $700,000 in Hong Kong and 410 shark bodies weighing 10 tons. The owners were fined $13,000. "We put a lot of manpower in our enforcement only to find out in court that the fines are nothing that companies would consider a risk," President Tommy Remengesa said. Normally, Palau sells the illegal catches it seizes, but Remengesau refused on principle saying ."Palau is not in the business of selling shark fins." On another matter, in January a dugong was found floating in the waters in the Koror area, a victim of a dynamiteconcussion.

Bennett buyout: To get Peter Bennett to leave DAN, the directors had to give him a golden parachute -- not illegal, but highly inappropriate for a nonprofit organization relying on member dues and contributions. But then again, it may have been the only way to get Bennett to leave peacefully. While DAN refused to disclose what they paid Bennett, their 2002 tax filing showed that besides Bennett's $218,361 salary to head DAN (while, of course, he remained a full time paid faculty member at Duke University), he was given a $448,933 contribution to his employee benefit plan between July 1, 2002 and June 30, 2003. Wow! That's 20 times more than any other DAN employee -- except Bennett's son, Christopher. He picked up a $58,998 contribution to his employee benefit plan, about three times as much as any other DAN employee. No tellin' what the Bennetts got paid this year. Nevertheless, that chapter in DAN's history is over, and DAN is well on its way to reconstructing itself. It's a vital organization and we wish them well.

Note to the captain of the Cayman Aggressor: Are you biting the hand that feeds you? More than one person has told us about the garbage they find on the reef and the oil slicks after you depart from Little Cayman.

Another way for YOU to save coral reefs: Seacology's Director Duane Silverstein (he's a 10-year Undercurrent subscriber) is using "winwin" solutions to protect reefs while islanders receive needed tangible benefits. So far, Seacology has protected 297,615 acres of coral reefs and marine habitat -- all with a staff of three people! No money wasted here. In Waisomo Village, Fiji, Seacology funded a new community center in exchange for the establishment of a no-fishing marine reserve. On Bunaken Island, off Sulawesi, Indonesia, Seacology is providing a landing dock to thank the village for enforcing regulations protecting local coral reefs. Seacology is about to construct a kindergarten for $12,000 in Fiji in exchange for the establishment of a 17-square-mile no-fishing marine reserve. Says marine biologist John McCosker of Seacology's unique approach, "Dollar for dollar, pound for pound, Seacology gets more output than any conservation group that I've seen. They're not giving money away, they're not making grants, they're making deals." Seacology sponsors interesting dive trips to see their projects. Call 510-559-3505 or visit www.seacology.org.

Grinding Nemo: Disney would have kids believe that if they flush their pet fish down the drain, it will be sent safely to the ocean, as happens in "Finding Nemo." But before those fishies reach the ocean, they would be shred to pieces. "In truth, no one would ever find Nemo, and the movie would be called Grinding Nemo," wrote the JWC Environmental company, which makes shredding pumps. Unfortunately, the movie is creating a great demand for tropical fish, many of which will be captured from reefs to meet the demand created by Nemo. The Honolulu Advertiser reports that Frank Gornichec, owner of Modern Pet Center in Honolulu, has sold more than two dozen clownfish, at $25 a pair, since the movie opened May 30 and "everybody wants to know where the other one is -- the blue tang." Luana Mitchell, co-owner of The Fish Shack in Wailuku, said a shipment of twelve blue tangs that arrived after the movie opened quickly sold out for $38 apiece. The clownfish these shops sell were raised in tanks, but in many countries and the U.S. the tropical fish sold are captured on reefs. Thanks to Nemo, other surgeon fish and Moorish idols are also in demand. Hawaii, by the way, has an active fish capturing industry, which is often blamed for the reduction in the reef fish population.

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