After a quick check in to the islander website in an attempt to stay connected to the community while abroad, I must express a few thoughts regarding my concerns on two particular issues. For the sake of simplifying your task I will send them in separate emails.
First, I was highly disconcerted, though I must admit quite unsurprised, to see the responses to Mark Anderson's article regarding the Southern Resident Killer Whale population and the impending threats to their survival.
I understand the responses and their often aggressive and "knowledgeable" tone; these responses are written by people who feel threatened by this discussion in general, and are being forced to defend their own profession at all means. However, I do not in any way find these responses acceptable.
It is a natural human response to defend oneself in the face of what may seem to be a personal attack. The misconception of Anderson's work and publications as such an attack, I believe, is the largest problem in the discussion of an issue that is clearly important to all islanders.
I thought perhaps I might offer a more humanistic view to the discussion that might explain the position of my father.
Over a period of 10 or so years I have watched Mark gain a larger and larger interest in the survival of these whales as a species. He has never had any sort of vendetta against whale watch operators. However, hostilities have clearly emerged that are both unnecessary and, honestly, disappointingly juvenile.
On the part of my father, I believe his current bluntness is a reaction to, indeed a direct result of, the consistent, long term behavior and responses of the members of the whale watching industry.
From day one, operators have followed the behavioral path we so often see with those who stand to benefit from continuing a negative behavior that is under scrutiny. I see disturbing parallels between their tactics and the way oil companies so frequently deny, delay, and ignore evidence against their behavior.
Responses tend to be short and personally insulting, lacking thought, or simply deny that any of the research done by scientists or NOAA has truly pointed to a problem with boat behavior amongst the whales.
I have just read a number of responses that in general seemed to prove an entirely emotional, and of course threatened, thought process, rather than one exhibiting a careful examination of what my father writes. This kind of negative thought and response drags everyone down. Frequently I read a response and my immediate thought is "Did this person just read the article, or the headline?"
I do appreciate the attempt by many to actually address their issues with the last publication point by point, but also saw many statements saying that Mark did not explain something when, if the author had read carefully, they would have found the point to be one of the more salient ones in the letter.
To avoid being long winded, I'll simply add that I am very surprised how far this debate has gone on very unreasonable terms. Since the issue is clearly emotional, a trustable party surely needs to remain as rational and unemotional as possible. Unfortunately I have seen and felt first hand how frustrating, therefore emotional, it can be to be constantly denied as having a reasonable point of view by people who in truth, often know too little about the subject, though it may affect them.
I find it quite sad really to see the ego contests published by individuals desperately trying to throw up credentials such as being trained naturalists (to my knowledge many are trained for the specific purpose of a career in whale watching) and having worked at the U.W. labs. My father is attacked by people claiming to be long-term islanders, U.W. Laboratory staff, trained naturalists, etc.
He is a Stanford University Marine Biology Major, has done research at the U.W. labs, and is, of course, a long-term islander. Mute points abound in these responses, and I long to see the kind of intelligent, emotionally restrained conversation that one finds in the actual scientific community, but rarely in cases such as this where parties are financially interested and intellectually untrustworthy. Those who care but do not stand to gain financially are, in my experiences, those worth trusting.