Monday, August 26, 2013

Musings: Cause and Effect

The clouds this morning contained an angel — always welcome — an orange mushroom, a lavender-blue-black swirl that looked like a miniature origin of the cosmos and a shark, replete with hammer head and dorsal fin.

With the recent death of a German visitor who had her arm bitten off in Maui waters, the Star-Advertiser has begun beating “The Jaws” drum for a hunt, though its editorial euphemistically substituted the word “culling” for “killing:”

The practice of shark culling has both opponents and proponents. Critics question its overall effectiveness, noting the migratory nature of sharks; and point out that the ocean is the sharks' — not humans' — domain. Proponents, though, will note that culling could reduce the number of sharks appearing in near-shore waters, and fewer numbers lower the potential for encounters.

For an island state like Hawaii, and as dependent as we are on tourism and ocean recreation for tourists and residents alike, shark culling should be on the table of options given this "unprecedented spike" in attacks here since the start of 2012.

Yeah, because even though it won't actually have any meaningful effect, it will look like somebody's doing something — sort of like that silly water safety video that loops endlessly, unwatched and ignored, at the Lihue baggage claim.

I'll never forget standing with longtime North Shore fisherman Bito Hermosura at the Lumahai overlook when a tourist got out of her car and asked, with trembling trepidation, “Are there sharks down there?” Bito didn't miss a beat. “Of course. The ocean is their home.”

Enter at your own risk. Still, I can see why the visitor industry doesn't like it. First we had that spate of drownings, now there's a string of shark attacks. But when you consider how we regularly disrespect the ocean with our sewage, pesticides, silt, plastic trash, sonar exercises, military explosions, boat noise, fuel spills, overfishing, aquarium collecting and what have you, is it any wonder that every now and then it exacts a little revenge?

Meanwhile, a paragraph in an article by Léo Azambuja on the Kikiaola harbor sand replenishment project slipped by unnoticed until Councilman Gary Hooser posted a link on his Facebook page:

The sand and silt accumulating inside the harbor cannot be used to replenish the beach, according to [state DOBAR engineer Eric] Yuasa.

He said a ditch coming from nearby agricultural fields brings pesticides and heavy metal into the harbor. Chemicals bind easier to fine silt than to coarser sand, he said, so the silt is unsuitable for beach nourishment.

But Yuasa said he would encourage contractors to take it away once it’s dredged out of the harbor.

So where would that contaminated silt be taken away to? And just where are those pesticides and heavy metals coming from? Which ones, exactly, are we talking about? And how are they impacting the marine environment and human health?

Those are the kinds of questions that need answering far more urgently than the movement of tiger sharks around the Islands.

And finally, I noticed a letter to the editor today from Dr. Graham Chelius, a Kekaha physician who talks about public health concerns that he feels are more serious than pesticides:

Islandwide, homes built before 1978 may be contaminated with lead-based paint. High levels of mercury are in marlin, ahi, ono and other fish caught right in our waters.

While I don't think we should ignore pesticide exposure, mercury and lead paint are very real concerns, especially on the westside, with its plethora of fishermen and old plantation houses. Camp houses often contain not only lead paint, but canec, an old-time fiberboard material made from sugar cane pulp treated with  inorganic arsenic compounds as an antitermite agent. As Dr. Chelius noted, a baby can suffer irreversible brain damage from eating a chip of lead-based paint the diameter of a pencil. And as the state DOH warns:

[E]xposure to deteriorating canec should be minimized. 

I got incredibly sick and was diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning after living for six years in an old house with cracked and peeling paint that I later learned contained lead. Fine dust regularly sifted down from cracks in the ceiling, which was made from canec. The doctors who diagnosed and treated me said they see quite a bit of heavy metal toxicity on Kauai, especially among people who eat a lot of fish and work in the construction industry, where they work with treated wood and do demolition involving canec.

But heavy metal bioaccumulation often goes undiagnosed and untreated because its symptoms – fatigue, muscle ache, memory loss, depressed immune systems, digestive problems , insomnia, irritability, nausea — are similar to those caused by other health conditions.

So while we're scrutinizing the seed companies and their pesticide load, which we should, let's also spend a little time checking out westside schools and homes for deteriorating paint and canec, and step up the public education about mercury in our cherished ahi poke.

Because unless you bleed to death after a shark attack, it's often hard to identify just one cause for illness and death in our chemical-laden modern world.


Anonymous said...

We need the sharks for tourism control.

Anonymous said...

Shall i go debate culling your 'ohana too?sick

Anonymous said...

Our shark population is the result of the two (late 1950's and mid-1970's)State sponsored shark abatement/bounty programs. UH had some involvement in the 1970's program, which was sponsored, funded, and operated by DLNR in conjunction with NOAA. Commercial fishermen were paid a bounty for near shore predator sharks, and paid incentives to bring science parties along and utilize UH system students as seaman.
Tiger sharks are the top reef predator - their preferred prey is a smaller tiger shark, followed by other shark species. Lemon sharks also specialize on eating smaller sharks. Galapagos and Grey reef sharks, white and black tip reef,hammer and scalloped heads, oceanic white tip, mako, and thresher sharks were all caught within a few miles of shore at night. Thousands of sharks were killed.
A live 3'-4' tiger is the best bait to catch a 20 footer.
Today - all those mid and late 1970's shark pups/juveniles who escaped predation by larger sharks are mature and reaching full size. They are the 12' to 22' long tigers prowling the reef drop offs and river mouths.
Think about it. Why are there so many large sharks, and very few small sharks?

Anonymous said...

More turtles, more sharks.

Anonymous said...

Another great concern Dr Chelius pointed out is that a lot of girls are continuing to abuse drugs and alcohol while pregnant.

A lot of these girls come from broken homes where drugs and alcohol rule their everyday lives. Some of these girls are pimped out by their parents or care takers.

In one case a now YWCA worker and drug addicted mother pimped out her daughters to the Micronesian Kauai coffee workers. When reported to CPS, CPS threatens complainant.

The article and study in TGI a few weeks ago hides these facts. The all powerful wants to hide the illegal drug industry that destroys Kauai.

The incest and drug addicted baby mommas are a huge hidden problem on Kauai. No talk like that! Shhh shhh! Taboo!

Instead of bringing forth the problems and finding solutions, they'd rather quite the people (set em up/kill em) or hide things (cover up/ disappearence).

Anonymous said...

One point no one is bringing up is the coming radiation storm that will dominate the Pacific. Fukushima is melting down and no one in Japan has the slightist idea on how to stop it.

Since tuna are nomadic and feed off of indigenous shore species, radiated Ahi and Aku will be coming soon. It's only a matter of when.

Humanity is finally having to face up to all it's "Safe Technology and Science". My dad always said "your day of retribution will come", I think I know what he meant now. I'll have to say Mother Nature has been quite patient with us so far, but somethings gonna happen soon and I don't think it will be pretty.

While we squabble about the obvious the rest of our surrounding world is slowly collapsing. It's just a matter of time. If we get overwhelmed it's to late.

We're almost there. Enjoy your day!

Anonymous said...

would it really be so bad if there were less sharks?

I mean, I don't want to die as shark food. Plus, it's not like they're doing anyone any good. They eat tuna and other large game's not like they're helping control the jellyfish population.

They aren't serving any great function in the circle of life that we ourselves don't serve...I say kill all the sharks.