Controversy over sea turtles has moved to the most seemingly innocent and unlikely of places… Mark Trail in the Sunday comics.
For those of you who usually go for comics with an immediate punch line, Mark Trail was created over fifty years ago and teaches readers about various wild creatures via the adventures of naturalist Mark Trail. Mark tirelessly defends the world from all environmental evils, including polluters, poachers, and marijuana growers.
Last weekend’s installment (June 20th) outlined the threat endangered sea turtles face from baited longline fishing hooks. Mark visits an administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and learns:
“Scientists, working with the long-line industry, have come up with a hook that will save many of the big turtles!….By working together, NOAA and the fishing industry are saving turtles and an important industry”
Mark Trail easily distinguishes good guys from bad guys based on the presence of facial hair, but it seems that he has been duped by NOAA. The fishery service has indeed come up with a better and more efficient hook, but it is now retracting its proposal to require them. Using logic that would baffle Mark Trail, NOAA is rejecting three years of study showing that circle hooks reduce sea turtle bycatch by at least 60 percent.
Although good always triumphs over evil in Mark Trail’s world, only when NOAA acts on the advice of its scientists will endangered sea turtles be protected from dangerous fishing gear.