Letters for the week of January 29-February 4, 2003

Sharks need protection from humans; clients need protection from lawyers; teens need exposure to responsibility; and journalists need exposure to the truth.

Despite their image, sharks are sensitive
We enjoyed Jim Rendon’s article on interactions between white sharks and humans at the Farallon Islands from the cage-diving perspective (“Farallon Feeding Frenzy,” January 15). It was more thorough and balanced than other such media pieces on the subject. However, an important component to the debate was omitted from the article.

On 26 February 2001, the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary hosted a meeting attended by agency regulators, wildlife managers, cage-dive supporters, researchers, and members of the public interested in resolving some of these issues and reducing the potential for disturbance to the sharks. All at the meeting agreed that regulations were needed, similar to those currently in place concerning whales, to protect white sharks at the Farallones from both research and increasing ecotourism activities. The recommendations proposed in the petition, submitted to the GFNMS in July 2001, were a direct result of this meeting, with input from all sides, and did not represent an independent attempt by the researchers to exclude ecotourism at the island. Although invited, neither Patric Douglas nor Lawrence Groth attended the meeting. Their participation in the process, rather than reaction against it, would have prevented much of the “feuding” that has ensued.

Despite its image, the white shark is a sensitive species, with a slow reproductive rate and low worldwide populations. At the Farallones, individual white sharks may spend up to three months of the year attempting to prey upon a single seal. Being frightened away from their prey or confused by the deployment of decoys or chum thus results in important opportunities missed. Those of us who know these sharks are primarily interested in protecting them in perpetuity from both overeager researchers and ecotourists. Realizing such a result is a much more important issue to us than any debate between individual ecotourism and research groups today.
Peter Pyle and Scot Anderson, Farallon Island research biologists, Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Stinson Beach

Pain and suffering the post-modern way
Will Harper’s brilliant reporting in “Settling for Less” (January 8) exposes the People’s Lawyer, James M. Rogers. It also tellingly reveals the murky world of personal injury claims where it appears that the client, totally depersonalized, becomes merchandise for the lawyer to market, like a product, to a chiropractor for the profit of the chiropractor and lawyer.

As Nichole Williamson keenly observes in the article, the client often receives far less than the lawyer and/or chiropractor in the settlement of the case.

So much for pain and suffering.
Anne Kasdin, Oakland

Her nudity exposes your stupidity
Kathy Bates is one of the greatest actors we have living today and to make such a small-minded comment (“Kathy Bates gets naked, which gets her an Oscar nod and gives us the creeps”) just makes you, Mr. Weinkauf, look stupid (“Far from Happy,” January 1). She may not be some ninety-pound Hollywood wonder, but she can out-act them all and shouldn’t have to suffer such comments.
Christine Caldwell, Richmond

Start ’em young
I am quite puzzled as to why you recommended “Bowling for Columbine” for anyone over fourteen (“Back to the Future,” January 1). Why are you supposed to be over fourteen to see this film?

As someone who associates with folk this age (fourteen and under), I have to say that many of them are more on the ball mentally, intellectually than people in their twenties and thirties (and over). Youth are expected to see the foolish and the trashy. Yet they aren’t supposed to see something about social responsibility? How backward is that?
Sunny Safiya, Oakland

Now if you could only teach them about Kleenex and Xeroxing
Thank you so much for a hearty morning laugh! It’s not every day that someone reminds us of the improper use of a trademark, and I for one appreciate your comments (Letters, “The last word on trademark law in, uh, black and white,” January 15). After I rose from the floor and gathered my wits I realized that I should commend you for an alert and appropriate reminder to our beloved and well-meaning but oftentimes rushed EBE journalists. Indeed, they bear watching and we are fortunate that your eagle eyes are tracking them. I certainly rest easier knowing you are hovering.

Yours in vigilance,
Lou Caputo, Albany

Geocaching for the Boxing Day set
Ah, the joys of American techies! What is called geocaching here and requires a GPS unit, cell phone, and digital camera has a much more mundane yet reassuring moniker in the United Kingdom, where the practice was first invented. The British call it “letterboxing,” and the activity involves tramping all over Cornwall and other parts of the UK searching for hidden boxes with logbooks that can be stamped, signed, and claimed.

Letterboxing merely requires a pair of sturdy hiking boots, a pencil, and rubber stamp, and no high-tech toys or Ford Explorers. Such letterboxes are particularly prevalent on Dartmoor, where hikers can be seen searching high and low using only their eyes to find the box, and a rubber stamp to make their mark in the logbook. This addictive practice began in 1844 and took off after World War Two and there are now apparently several thousand boxes scattered about the UK (according to the Lonely Planet travel guide).

There — you needed to know that, didn’t you?
Tim Kingston, Oakland


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