Letters to the Editor

Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 1:36 a.m.

Manatee deaths by the numbers

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Sun file photo

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently released the preliminary 2008 manatee mortality statistics. The total was 337.

The causes of these deaths and an investigation of other, habitat-scale threats must be conducted to begin to understand how manatees will fare in the future.

The 2008 manatee mortality totals fell below the previous 5-year average of 357 deaths. However, this same 5-year period (2003-2007) represented the highest average number of deaths on record, and far surpassed the 5-year average for the period from 1998-2002, which was 281 deaths.

Additionally, the 90 watercraft mortalities documented in 2008 well exceeded the 5-year average of 77 observed from 2003-2007.

All told, 99 manatees were confirmed to have died from human-related causes in 2008, and it is likely that a number of manatees whose causes of death could not be determined or whose carcasses were unrecovered also died from human-related causes.

Furthermore, some cold-related and perinatal deaths may also be associated with human activities (i.e. the reduction of spring flows at a warm water site or the death of a calf following the loss of its mother in a fatal watercraft strike).

Research has indicated that many manatees may be dying at an early age, falling far short of their expected life span of 60-plus years. This threatens the longevity of Florida's manatee population.

In addition, we must be concerned with the health of the aquatic habitat in which manatees live. This will become increasingly important in the future, as Florida's human population continues to grow and the effects of climate change accelerate.

Manatees are also negatively affected by attempts to weaken important wildlife laws, such as the federal Endangered Species Act, which recently underwent destructive modifications that must now be swiftly reversed by the incoming administration.

The bottom line on the 2008 manatee mortality is this: We have a long way to go to ensure that manatees will have a fighting chance at living out their natural lifespan without the ever-present threat of human indifference.

Dr. Katie Tripp,

Director of

Science & Conservation

Save the Manatee Club


Support the arts

Recently, The Sun reported at length on the challenges that are faced by various performing arts organizations in North Central Florida. As a member of the board of the Performing Arts Center, and particularly as PAC Affiliates Development Committee member, I urge the community to take notice of the struggle that local cultural enterprises face in the immediate future, and to engage actively to keep them afloat for what will be a difficult, but finite, period.

Apart from the obvious advantages we all enjoy in having cultural experiences that are accessible and affordable, proud ownership of local culture is one of our most important assets.

As a member of the larger UF community, I participate in recruitment efforts year round. Our ability to attract and retain talented people from all over the world, to engage them as they build their lives and careers here, is essential to the future of Alachua County.

We compete directly with larger, wealthier communities for the attention and commitment of these people, who often have numerous options. While we have historically had some advantages, as times get tougher, we will have to maintain our investment in the "life quality" that often beats higher salary offers and fancier lifestyles.

Investment now, on behalf of local culture, is not only wise, it is critical. I urge readers to contact the cultural organization of their choice, and make a commitment to help us all weather this storm.

Lisa Molitor Gearen,


Layoffs cost money

I do not understand the wisdom of thinking layoffs and terminations save anyone money.

How can employers, large or small, fail to consider the cost of severance packets, leave payouts or (at the very least) unemployment benefits payments? Or the man hours for human resources staff, accounting and IT folks who are left to tidy up the vacancy with paper trails.

If the employee had medical benefits, look at the cost to society for losing health insurance, when Cobra and others might be unaffordable. In our present economy, it is not far-fetched to imagine the person could default on his home, line of credit or even turn to less-than-legitimate resources.

Look at the impact on family morale (to say nothing of personal self-esteem). Everyone is affected, and everything has a cost.

Some potential employers (Shands for one) still make a "continuous employment" requirement, even for moderate-salaried positions, which automatically disqualifies the jobless. It may be dubious to judge employability by breaks in service, especially nowadays.

My personal appeal is that, unless you have 1,700 applicants, consider a courteous "Thank you for your time and interest" note (as an e-mail, the cost is nominal). The job hunter may have spent hours or days perfecting a resume or portfolio, completing the application process, testing or preparing for an interview. Even if not selected, it can still be a great acknowledgement.

Who knows who might be next, standing with the cardboard sign "Will Work for Mortgage Payment".

John P. Korb,


The Sun's bias

Any attempt by The Gainesville Sun to present a "balanced" approach to covering the local angle on the Israeli siege of Gaza was thrown out the window with Nathan Crabbe's puff-piece "Catholic Cuban is a Gator for Israel amid turmoil" (Jan. 6).

When I was on the executive board of Nakba 48 (a UF student organization supporting the human rights of the Palestinian people) for three years, our organization was never approached to do a profile piece, despite my being a Jewish-American strongly opposed to Israel. I'm not the only Jewish-American in town who has such a stance, yet you will never hear about us.

That is because there is an unwritten "golden rule," double-standard in the mainstream media of reporting as much positive coverage of Israel as possible to offset any reports on the suffering of the Palestinian people (despite the casualty numbers in this siege alone being at least 550 Palestinian men, women and children killed at last count).

Until the voices of a growing number of Jewish-Americans in Gainesville who oppose Israel's acts of state terrorism are heard, the citizens here will continue to be misled that these crimes against humanity are being committed "in the name of the Jewish people."

David Reznik,


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