Letters

John Brewton,
Healthy Homes Inc.
Dallas

Joe Don Baker a Loser?
Re: The review of Congo [Film, "Monkey Business" by Edith Sorenson, June 15]. Edith, did you watch this movie, or did you get your review from your 12-year-old son or grandson? Because only a movie patron who is under 17 years old could truly say this was a rip-roaring movie that is a lot of fun. It cannot even begin to compare with Jurassic Park.

First off, did you miss the scene showing the TraviCom building in Houston, Texas, with mountains in the background? Shame, shame, shame. The producers and director of this show obviously did not care to take their time in showing the correct locale for our city. And what about Amy, a gorilla who can speak through sign language and a data glove? Yes, this was a great idea, but she looked like a human in a gorilla suit for most of the movie.

As for R.B. Travis (Joe Don Baker): his part was of a greedy, who-cares-about-my-son-he's-dead, now-get-that-diamond head of TraviCom. I just do not want to see this kind of sentiment or lack of in a movie. I believe he belongs only in those Walking Tall movies, where he's more of a winner than a loser.

Now, yes, I did like some of the movie. The other characters were fun and somewhat believable once the scene left Houston and went to Africa. Maybe because I've never been there and do not know if the locale is correct. Maybe because that is when my mind left the theater and became one with the movie. But, had I seen a review before this movie came out, I would not have spent my $4.25 (before 6 p.m.). I would have waited until it went to the dollar movie, or better yet network television. Sorry, Edith, you were way off.

Pati Whetsell
Houston

That's Entertainment
This is an entertaining column [The Insider, July 6], but printing it on that gray background makes it more difficult to read.

J. Brownfield
Houston

Label This Battle "Turtle-Free"
"Dead in the Water" by Michael Berryhill [June 29] correctly cites major conflicts between bay and offshore shrimpers and the competition for both groups from cheap imports. Unfortunately, however, the sea turtles take the rap again as the bad guys even though the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) to allow sea turtles to escape drowning is simple compared to other industry problems. The dilemma of the bayshore shrimper pitted against offshore shrimpers combined with overfishing of the bays and the cheaper, imported shrimp which is swallowing up the U.S. markets are much more complicated issues than using TEDs to exclude sea turtles.

Mr. Berryhill's comparison of a bay shrimper to a "family farmer" is incorrect. A farmer makes huge investments. He either rents or buys farmland, then purchases seed, fertilizer and insecticide in addition to investing in several large implements. Then the farmer plows, plants and plows again before harvest. On the other hand, a shrimper buys his boat, an inexpensive permit, waits until spring, harvests a public resource and sells it.

Many shrimp fishermen use TEDs and understand why they are needed, but, unfortunately, some continue to protest, tie TEDs shut and mutilate the sea turtles they catch. Why the industry does not police itself and ostracize those who have given shrimp fishing such a bad name is a question yet to be answered.

Even Mr. Standley admits that he has caught some dozen turtles in his nets while not mentioning that he is only one of thousands of shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico who have probably done the same. The number of shrimpers in the Gulf has increased from 5,400 in 1959 to the most recent estimates of more than 13,000; yet, the amount of shrimp harvested in the Gulf of Mexico has not increased appreciably. Even the shrimp industry realizes that management of their resource has been faulty or totally lacking.

Mr. Standley may have released the turtles he caught "alive and kicking," but research has shown that even a short drag of a sea turtle underwater fighting for breath may injure the animal and will certainly leave it dazed and more likely to be caught in another shrimp trawl.

Although some shrimpers try to blame sea turtle deaths on causes other than shrimping, the 1994 season provided more evidence of guilt than the Simpson trial. When there was shrimping there were dead turtles; when the federal/state closure began, the sea turtle deaths plummeted; the strandings started again when shrimping started; and went down dramatically when enforcement was increased. The government has always tiptoed around the shrimp industry and sea turtles continue to die in Texas waters year after year at the hands of some who risk the good name of the industry and the reputations of those who use TEDs.

Shrimper Richard Moore missed a golden opportunity to market his catch as "turtle-safe" shrimp throughout the Southwest and nationally. Shrimpers in Florida and Georgia have eagerly signed affidavits allowing observers on their boats to confirm they are using TEDs. These ambitious fishermen will benefit from the nationwide advertising soon to be launched by Earth Island Institute of California at no cost to themselves. (Interestingly enough, Earth Island Institute and the Georgia Fishermen's Association filed a lawsuit last year to prevent the importing of shrimp from nations not using TEDs while the National Fisheries Institute joined government bureaucrats to argue against this needed protection for the shrimpers.)

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