Letters to the Editor
for a high price
To the Editor:
The West Tisbury FinCom has been proclaiming that the Up-Island Regional School District's per-pupil cost is $23,000. Joan Ames, candidate for the FinCom, says in her campaign flyer that it's $26,000. Those figures are both wrong.
Ms. Ames perhaps divides the FY08 operating costs of the UIRSD ($8.2 million) by the number of students enrolled in the Chilmark and West Tisbury schools (323). That calculation ignores almost a million dollars in revenue. What UIRSD taxpayers are asked to spend next year is $7.5 million. The FinCom divides the $7.5 million by 323 students and gets a $23,000 per-pupil cost. But that isn't right either, because it ignores 68 students whom taxpayers are paying to educate. If you add 43 Charter School students, 24 school-choice students, and one SPED residential placement - all included in the $7.5 million - the actual per-pupil expenditure is about $19,000.
Where can voters get reliable figures that compare the UIRSD with other districts in the state? The Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE). For FY05, the latest year available, the DOE web site lists UIRSD's per-pupil expenditure as $17,451. It is true that UIRSD per-pupil cost that year was among the dozen highest in the state, but it was lower than two districts on the Cape. The UIRSD is a small district and enrollments are declining; a smaller district costs more (per pupil) to run than a larger one. Everything on Martha's Vineyard costs more. Moreover, although it is true the UIRSD costs are higher than many in the state, the school is demonstrably better than many in the state. For example, West Tisbury students were first in the state in science MCAS last year for the second year in a row. Up-Island taxpayers are getting an excellent school district for their dollars.
Certainly the per-pupil cost of the UIRSD might, with the cooperation of the school administration, the school advisory committees, and other districts on the Island, be made somewhat lower. That is a legitimate goal, one which the 2007 UIRSD committee agrees with and has already begun to work on. The growth in the proposed FY08 budget is 2.45 percent - less than the three percent increase in the teachers' new contract and below the rate of inflation. The growth in the UIRSD assessments from FY04 to FY08 is 12.7 percent - a rate FinCom chairman Al DeVito characterized on March 23 as the rate of inflation. It is fair to say that the UIRSD has been holding the line, despite escalating costs for salaries, utilities, and insurance.
The not-so-hidden agenda is the Chilmark School. It is true that the UIRSD would cost less if run in just one building, though how much less is open to some question. However, closing the Chilmark building outright would violate the spirit of the regional agreement that created the UIRSD in the first place and break faith with the residents of Chilmark. West Tisbury voters should know that voting down the school budget on April 10 would neither close the Chilmark School nor persuade Chilmark to pay a premium for keeping it open. That would require a far more complicated solution than a town meeting vote. Selectman Skipper Manter (also a member of the FinCom and the school committee) is fond of saying that voting down the UIRSD budget would "send a message" to Chilmark. Make no mistake: the radical surgery required to reach zero-based budgeting would be so drastic that it would significantly attack the quality of education up-Island, in the long run costing more than the dollars saved. Recommending such an action is wrong-headed and irresponsible. If voters are willing to vote for a reduction in the quality of education, they should know in advance which programs and services will be cut. If the W.T. FinCom wants to "send a message," it should find a way that doesn't hurt children.
Dan Cabot, a contributing editor to The Times, is an elected member of the Up-Island Regional School District and a member of the board of the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School.
Clarifying school funding
To the Editor:
Super Tuesday, April 10 is quickly approaching. It is important to be correctly informed for on that night four of the six Island towns will vote which funding formula to use for the Regional High School. Various town officials have been quoted in our local newspapers with regard to this confusing issue. Oak Bluffs selectman, Mr. DiOrio, stated that the intent of the new formula was "to create equal educational opportunities for all children."
For the Vineyard the new formula means that in order for Oak Bluffs and Aquinnah students to have equal education at the Regional High School, the other four towns will have to subsidize them. According to the state legislature, Oak Bluffs and Aquinnah will respectively need to have decreased assessments of $413,537 and $60,381 in order to achieve this goal. Guess who's picking up this $473,918.00 tab? Not the state, of course. Tisbury will have to pay an extra $220,768, West Tisbury $108,045, Chilmark $70,691 and Edgartown $74,414 to help fund the other two towns. Interestingly enough, prior to February 28, Edgartown had a DECREASED assessment of $29,395.
Does that mean that for all the decades that Martha's Vineyard funded the Regional High School using the "old formula" (per pupil based), the students from Oak Bluffs and Aquinnah did not receive equal education? What in particular have the students from these two towns been denied during all those years? Does that mean that unless the "new formula" is implemented the children of Aquinnah and Oak Bluffs cannot be afforded the same quality of education at our one and only high school? This is puzzling, especially since the state has ruled that all our six towns are too wealthy (land and personal income) to utilize the new formula.
Priscilla Sylvia, Oak Bluffs school committee member, is quoted as saying that "to divvy up one pot of money is going to be divisive." There simply is not a pot of money to be divided. Rather the state has decided (based on 1992/1993 data) that two of our towns have not been able to keep up with the required minimum spending level for many years. In order to remedy this, implementation of the "new formula" is needed. Aquinnah and Oak Bluffs will be given 8 to 10 years to catch up. In the mean time the other four island towns, who according to the state are already spending significantly above the required spending level, will be forced to make up the difference. At the end of the 8 or 10 years we should be back to our old formula (per pupil assessment). We're also told that there is no guarantee that this assessment issue will be cleared up at the end of those adjustment years. Confusing? Absolutely. Bear in mind that of course Oak Bluffs and Aquinnah have always paid their fair share, so what data is the state using to come up with the above findings.
A few weeks ago, Kerry Scott said that this assessment issue is not an Oak Bluffs problem. She is correct, it isn't just an Oak Bluffs problem. This is an All Island Problem. As long as the state neglects to provide us with a clear and honest accounting for each town's assessment, we will continue the process of fact finding, which means every year from now on we shall have to spend the time and energy to debate the "new formula." The DOE and State Legislature set educational standards for all our schools. Beginning in third grade, teachers put much emphasis in developing critical thinking skills. Among the many skills we teach them are to analyze, compare and contrast, and to use logic in making inferences. In math we stress not only the importance of careful computation, but the ability to use what one knows to come up with an estimate in order to check the final outcome. Our youngsters, without exception, are encouraged to be fair-minded, to stand up for their rights and are reminded about keeping "Bully Free Zones".
I find it ironic that the very people who set educational standards don't follow them. Using outdated information (1992/1993 data) to determine assessments for the year 2008 and beyond does not seem logical to me. Neglecting requests for data and clear explanations seems quite unfair. Doesn't it sound dictatorial to tell some towns to "take a hit for the team" and to just forget trying to understand this much too complicated formula?
Being an immigrant from a country where endless red tape and corruption are part of life, I thought standing up for my town's right and requesting straight answers from state officials in Massachusetts would be a no-brainer. After all, I now not only live in the United States of America but I am a resident of Massachusetts, birthplace of many of America's founding fathers and home of the Boston Tea Party! Unfortunately no real answers have been forthcoming from our state officials.
However, every cloud has a silver lining. I am grateful to the Martha's Vineyard Times and the Vineyard Gazette for their extensive and fair reporting on this issue. I also feel fortunate that in this country we are allowed to freely question the action or non action of our legislature. It is very encouraging to learn that the Up-Island school officials voted unanimously to reject the new funding formula. Hopefully this will give us some time to continue our fact-finding.
Allow me to repeat that for now, all I am interested in is proof that these assessments are based on real and current data. If indeed all is fair, then my quest is finished. The basic philosophy behind the new funding formula is fine; it is the manner in which it is being processed that remains a mystery.
So many of our Island residents haven't had the chance to follow this assessment debate. I hope this letter might clarify the meaning of a YES or NO vote for the new funding formula.
For some it will be an easy decision, for others it might mean a vote based on their conscience.
No matter what happens, be grateful that we can vote.
For Oak Bluffs,
To the Editor:
In response to the state statutory assessment formula, which would award the town of Oak Bluffs more than $400,000, at the expense of other Island towns, in its assessment for the Regional High School budget, we understand that the residents of Oak Bluffs have an important issue. Because Oak Bluffs has the largest number of students in the high school and has a smaller property tax base, it has a harder time coming up with the money required to meet its high school obligation, based in the Regional High School agreement on enrollment. Should we not all consider an alternative that includes some component of ability to pay in the high school assessment formula? Such is our income tax. It is based on ability to pay: you earn more, you pay more.
The problem with the state statutory formula for assessment of the high school budget is that it does not address that issue at all. Tisbury taxpayers draw upon less property value than Oak Bluffs. Yet, by the state formula they are required to come up with an additional $200,000 to pay for Oak Bluffs share. That is not due to Tisbury's greater ability to pay.
The state formula specifically excludes any consideration of wealth-based factors in calculating the distribution of the high school budget. It rather uses an adjustment to bring the ratio of student cost among the member towns in 1993, when Tisbury had 100 more students than Oak Bluffs, to current levels, when Oak Bluffs has 100 more students than Tisbury. These calculations are enrollment-based. At the end of the adjustment period, all towns will be assessed on their proportion of current student enrollment. That is the way the assessment is now apportioned by the regional agreement.
Oak Bluffs would get by the state formula a short-term benefit to compensate for the change in enrollments from 1993 until now. But the end result will tie Oak Bluffs in the long run to a state formula of assessment by enrollment, with no adjustment for ability to pay.
How can an ability to pay component, which Oak Bluffs seeks as relief for its high student enrollments, be introduced into the assessment mix? Only by amendment to the regional agreement or a change in state law.
Oak Bluffs residents face a serious challenge in its vote whether to accept the state statutory formula. Will its interests be better served by voting for a short-term benefit at the expense of other Island towns? Or should it accept its current responsibility under the regional agreement?
Sticking with the regional agreement holds open the opportunity for an amendment to the agreement that would include an ability to pay component based on the relative taxable value of real estate property in each of the member towns.
If Oak Bluffs rather chooses to set itself apart from the other towns by voting for the state formula, it will lose other towns' support for its longer term interest for relief, based on its having a smaller tax base upon which to support an increasing number of students.
Hopefully, in the spirit of the Regional High School itself, all of us on the Island share in our concern to provide the very best education for every student on the Island, drawing upon the many resources that can be of best benefit to us all. We can best achieve this through our own agreement, not by the machinations of the state legislature.
Urges support for new sewage plant
To the Editor:
The following was sent to the Oak Bluffs selectmen.
Friends of Sengekontacket Inc. applauds the town of Oak Bluffs for its commitment to protecting the water quality of Sengekontacket Pond. The Oak Bluffs board of selectmen has placed warrant Article 3 on the Special Town Meeting scheduled for April 10, 2007, to appropriate funds for the design and engineering study needed to implement a package wastewater treatment plant for the MV Regional High School and nearby institutions. This is a huge step in the right direction.
We encourage Oak Bluffs voters to set an example for water quality protection and vote in favor of Article 3. The cost of both this design study and any approved implementation plan will be underwritten by the users. Thus, Oak Bluffs will be reimbursed for the cost of the study by the project participants. Oak Bluffs voters can do the right thing without further impacting the taxpayers.
Voters should take this opportunity to go on record against allowing human waste to continue as the primary cause of excess nitrogen in our great ponds. Shellfish and the eelgrass habitat they require are far more sensitive to impacts of excess nitrogen than humans; the required degree of de-nitrification to protect Sengekontacket shellfish and water quality is significantly higher than the state standard for drinking water, which is all that state Title V septic systems are required to meet.
A local wastewater package plant of the kind proposed for the high school removes far more nitrogen than Title V septic systems, and even more than most alternative septic systems. A wastewater package plant is a cost-effective solution for small but densely populated areas such as that occupied by the high school, community Services, Island Elderly Housing and the future YMCA. Finally, a package plant keeps the highly de-nitrified effluent within the same watershed where it originated.
For all these reasons Friends of Sengekontacket urges Oak Bluffs voters to help us improve and protect the water quality in Sengekontacket Pond.
Friends of Sengekontacket
Just the start
To the Editor:
For many years now, different people have tried to vote the town of Tisbury "wet," able to sell liquor.
I have over 20 years' experience as a bookkeeper in the two major liquor stores in Oak Bluffs. I had to know the liquor laws set down by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) and have had the pleasure of knowing the salesmen from the different liquor companies. The two that come to mind are Joe Silvia and Tony Maggo from New Bedford, two older gentlemen that always dressed in three-piece suits and traveled together.
One day, when Tony and Joe came into the store, Tony was obviously upset about something, and it didn't take long to find out just what it was. He was furious about some guy named Richard Nixon. I cannot print the language he used in describing this guy. Tony had found out that R.N. was running for president. This no good so and so will get this country into an awful mess that we can never get out of and never forget. "Don't forget what I'm tellin' ya!" He had even referred to him as "Tricky Dicky."
At another time, I had mentioned to both of them that people in the town of Tisbury were getting the chance to vote the town wet. Tony and Joe both chimed in on some information that the people did not know. The local licensing board would be the town selectmen. There are only so many licenses that can be granted due to the population. The legal, strict issues are set down by the ABCC. If anyone would like to know the laws regarding the payment of liquor invoices, I would be happy to talk to you. I am in the book. Tony pointed out that once one person has the legal right to sell alcohol, just beer and wine in a restaurant, the door is now open to bars and package stores. Legally it cannot be stopped. "Don't forget what I'm tellin' yal"
Just so someone can have a glass of wine with dinner: this seems to be the reason to put the town in this position. Well you can. BYOB. During my high school days, when I worked at the Art Cliff Diner, I was told by my boss, Maryann, that the bottle had to be left on the floor. We were to offer ice, and of course they could purchase whatever they wanted for mixes, I have been to lunch and dinner with friends that would bring a split of wine with them to dry places and think nothing of it. The liquor stores deliver every day but Sunday, so there goes the idea of saving gas. The Home Port in Menemsha is a dry place that does a whopping seasonal business. I have witnessed many notable people carry in their beverage of choice. Why are they so successful being dry?
The selectmen have a very nice plan hatched out. However, things will change, and so will the selectmen in the years to come. There was also a comment in one of the papers that someone stated that a place with a liquor license will have people stay longer. Drinking? If someone wants to continue drinking after dinner, wouldn't it be safer if they went home?
Every summer I read in the local papers about all the trouble in Oak Bluffs with the bar crowd. It's really sad. The officers should get combat pay. They like to go home when their shift is over in a healthy state. The noise will be a factor also. It will start with someone playing the guitar and singing, and then it will escalate to bands that bring a lot of noise with them. Just like the idea that the only thing that will happen in Tisbury if it goes wet is that someone can have a glass of wine with dinner. Things will change. Count on it. "Don't forget what I'm tellin' ya."
Put the beer/wine
question on the
To the Editor:
With so many important issues on the Tisbury town warrant, with more than $3 million in capital requests, the beer and wine issue is the simplest. All it asks is that the question be placed on next year's, that is, the 2008, ballot. Between now and then, after the state approves the home rule petition, the town has the opportunity to examine it under a microscope.
I have lived and worked in Tisbury for more than 30 years, and I hope that the town meeting votes to let everyone, not just those that are the meeting, have the opportunity to vote this issue in the ballot booth next year, after the selectmen detail and publish the rules and regulations. The issue at the town meeting is not about beer and wine; it is about giving your neighbor a chance to vote. This is one of the few issues that will not cost us money, nor should it cost us a big block of time. Let's just put it on the ballot for next year.
Taxes and votes
To the Editor:
I, along with others concerned about property taxes, encourage you to become involved in developing and voting for the coming town budgets.
Property tax bills are not related to property value. They have virtually no connection. Tax bills are driven by the municipal budget. When town expenditures rise, so will people's taxes. These are quotes from local news articles.
As I understand, the town budget, which residents impose upon themselves, are voted in at the town meeting. Certain budget articles which exceeded 2.5 percent over last year's budget are then voted on a couple of days later by secret ballot at the general election. To be approved, these override articles must be voted yes by a majority to become part of the budget.
In Edgartown last year, the town meeting approved a budget of $20-plus million. Then, two days later on Thursday, April 13, 2006, voted at the general election to approve or not the override articles (which exceeded 2.5 percent of last year's budget). A total of 518 ballots were cast on 13 articles. All articles were passed except Question 8, a Bike Path for Meshacket Road for $279,000, which was defeated by 34 votes. Two other articles for a total of $636,250 were passed, one by 17 votes and one by 23. There were at the time of the April 2006 town meeting 2,885 registered voters. This means 2,367 Edgartown voters who did not vote, chose to let 518 voters approve $3,572,002. in the general election override articles and this sum added to the town budget.
There are 6,040 property tax paying units in Edgartown. If the passed override articles of $3,572,002 were divided by 6,040, the result would be $591.39. This means that on average, at the general election, each property tax unit was imposed $591.39. $3,572,002 divided by 518 voters equals $6,895.75. This letter in no way judges the worth of any town expenditure, but this means fewer than 518 voters at the April 13, 2006 general election voted in $6,895.75 each in new taxes - that's some power.
I hope this illustrates the importance of every registered voter becoming involved in the town budget process. Attend the town meeting and vote in the general election. Your involvement directly affects the property tax you pay.
Dealing with the MVC
To the Editor:
It seems that everywhere I go people want to know about me and the Martha's Vineyard Commissioin. Well, I was raised to say nothing at all if I had nothing good to say. This is not the entirely the case, so here it is.
Dealing with the Martha's Vineyard Commission is like communicating with a teenager. All that you can do is state your position, beliefs and goals, attempt to guide them in the direction that you believe is best, negotiate and make conciliations for the benefit of both sides, and hope that they make the best decisions along the way. I believe that we were both successful in that achievement.
As to the amount of time and money spent to get to the end result, not unlike a teenager, no amount of time or money spent will guaranty any outcome. All that you can do is hope that everyone learns from every experience, good or bad, and uses those experiences to guide us through future decisions in a positive way.
Vulgarity, not a sport
To the Editor:
Last summer, my daughter stumbled upon the shark tournament while visiting your beautiful Island and was appalled by the vulgarity and cruelty of the event. Later, I happened to spot a segment about it on T.V. and was shocked by the barbarity, even though I had already heard her report.
I think you are doing a disservice to the reputation of your community by allowing such a gruesome sport. Cruelty is cruelty, whether the victim is a dog or a shark. I was appalled to see there were small children watching such violence being perpetrated, in many cases by their own parents. If this event appeared in a movie, it would surely have caused the film to be labeled too violent for children.
Sharks are magnificent animals in their own right and play an important part in the ecosystem. Many species are rare and even protected by other countries. They do not deserve this kind of exploitation in the name of sport.
MSPCA asks Oak Bluffs voters
to end shark tourney
To the Editor:
The clock is ticking for many species of sharks. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), an international scientific body that tracks the status of animal species worldwide, announced in February that it was adding more oceanic sharks to its list of species at risk of extinction. Among the species of sharks whose status was deemed to have deteriorated were all three species of thresher and short-fin mako sharks. These species are now listed as vulnerable, which the IUCN defines as "facing a high risk of extinction" in the wild. Additional sharks in New England waters are currently listed by the IUCN as facing an even greater risk of extinction, including the porbeagle shark, which the IUCN lists as "endangered" since it faces a "very high risk of extinction." Canada already lists porbeagle sharks as endangered, and the U.S. government recently added the species to its "species of concern" list, often a pre-cursor to listing on the U.S. Endangered Species List.
While these species dwindle in numbers they may face a gratuitous death at this year's Monster Shark Tournament on Martha's Vineyard. Recent winners have killed thresher, mako and porbeagle sharks, and last year's top four prize winners all killed thresher sharks.
One of the defenses used by tournament organizers to justify the Monster Shark Tournament is that none of the species caught is endangered. This simply is not true, according to the IUCN's research. Sharks are in trouble, and they need our protection from the brutality and suffering they endure just to garner prizes in shark tournaments.
One way to show that you care about the future of sharks is to vote against the tournament on the April 12 ballot initiative. It is time to stop celebrating their deaths and make a commitment to keeping large sharks in the ocean where they belong, while there is still time to make a difference.
Chief Executive Officer
To the Editor:
The Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament is due to be voted upon on April 12 by the residents of Oak Bluffs. The choice is whether or not to continue it. Why is this being questioned? Because the message the tournament conveys reflects directly upon the people of Oak Bluffs. The message of today is that which sprang to life after the 1975 movie "Jaws": sharks are "monsters," "killing machines" that pose a threat to humans. The only good shark is a dead shark.
Sharks are not viewed simply as fish, as some who support the tournament argue. The grisly scene at the dock of the hoisted-up dead sharks: what is this teaching the children who are there looking at all of this?
Sharks have seriously declined worldwide. This tournament threatens sharks: people's fear of sharks is reinforced; the true nature of sharks as essential predators is not taught or even alluded to.
Ending the tournament would reveal the people of Oak Bluffs as supporters of the natural world, not exploiters of it.
Marcia A. Sessions
Ms. Sessions, an Episcopal minister, describes herself as a "lifelong Southern New Englander."
Assessing the risk
To the Editor:
As the residents of Tisbury consider whether to permit beer and wine sales in restaurants, the question arises whether this change would increase alcohol related accidents, adverse health consequences, and alcohol intoxication. There is actually no question that decreasing access to alcohol decreases the adverse events related to alcohol. During American prohibition, alcohol related admissions to medical and psychiatric hospitals decreased. National rates of cirrhosis decreased. And as the 2004 Health Report of Martha's Vineyard demonstrated people drink more in the wet towns of Martha's Vineyard than the dry towns. In one analysis, 19 percent of wet town respondents were excess drinkers while 16 percent of dry town drinkers were excess drinkers. While the difference between 19 percent and 16 percent may not seem like much, wet town residents were 18.9 percent more likely to be excess drinkers. And this was after controlling for gender, age, and educational differences. (Males, younger adults, and less educated individuals are more likely to be heavy drinkers.)
We live in a culture where alcohol consumption is mainstream. And most drinkers do not drink to excess. I know that if I am able to buy a beer next time I have dinner at a Vineyard Haven restaurant, I will enjoy it.
But the fact is, whenever access to alcohol is increased, people drink more. Some will be heavy drinkers and will contribute to the large number of emergency room visits, accidents, and violent incidents that are alcohol-related. No doubt, restricting sales to restaurants, as opposed to allowing sales through bars and liquor stores will limit the increase in adverse alcohol-related events. Furthermore, because the clientele of those restaurants may be more likely to be middle-aged than 20- to 30-year-olds, excess drinking may be further minimized. Whether limiting alcohol sales to beer and wine would make a difference is unclear. After all, there is about the same amount of alcohol in a drink whether the alcohol is from a mixed drink or beer. The bottom line is that when most people drink they do it safely and the proposed shift may have a small impact on health parameters, but some people drink in a dangerous fashion and more access will mean more high-risk behavior.
Charles H. Silberstein, MD
The writer is a psychiatrist with board certification in addiction psychiatry, with offices at Martha's Vineyard Hospital
Senseless blood sport
To the Editor:
I am a property owner and frequent visitor to Oak Bluffs. Last December, I was parked in front of the Georgetown Retirement Residence in Washington D.C. when an elderly man saw the Oak Bluffs landfill sticker on my car and asked if Oak Bluffs was still the beautiful town of gentle people he visited 30 years ago. I responded that the town was essentially unchanged. He seemed pleased. A few weeks later a much younger man saw the same sticker and asked if that was the same town he had seen on TV where they "kill all the sharks." I said it was. I hoped that the elderly gentleman had not seen the same TV show.
Scientists at the UNC Institute of Marine Science have confirmed that overfishing of large sharks in the northwest Atlantic has caused unanticipated consequences, including the substantial decline in scallops and other shellfish. Though the shark tournament does not significantly reduce the population of large sharks directly, it does reinforce the erroneous notion that sharks are expendable.
But apart from the shark tournament's ecological message, do we want Oak Bluffs recognized as the charming town we love or as the site of what many consider a senseless blood sport? Those who vote in Oak Bluffs should end this ignoble spectacle.
Robert S. Tignor
Washington, D.C. and Oak Bluffs
A threat to scallops
To the Editor:
Over the years, and having given the matter much consideration, I have thought of countless reasons why the Monster Shark Tournament held in Oak Bluffs should be banned. Coming across an article in the New York Times on March 30, I realized that here is an argument that even the most hardened fiscally-minded Island resident should take note of.
The author, Henry Fountain, cites new studies that show a correlation between shark overfishing and a diminishing of bay scallops. As noted in the current issue of the journal Science, "depletion of large sharks has led to the destruction of the bay scallop fishery along parts of the Eastern seaboard." It appears that in the absence of large sharks; smaller sharks, skates, and rays flourish. These midlevel species devour scallops. A specific example, as noted by Dr. Peter Peterson, a marine biologist at the University of North Carolina, "the cownose ray practically denudes scallop beds before they have a chance to reproduce."
Having spent a summer working with Rick Karney at the Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group, I learned that scallopers harvest bay scallops after they have finished reproducing, unlike many of their natural predators.
So Oak Bluffs, if you need yet another reason to vote against the Monster Shark Tournament, you can tell your friends that killing large sharks is contributing to the decline of one of our most precious island resources, bay scallops.
To the Editor:
On April 12, the voters of Oak Bluffs will have the opportunity to voice their opposition to the use of town land for the Monster Shark Tournament. Other towns have voted to prevent their public lands from being used for these grisly and inhumane events, as noted in The Vineyard Gazette article on March 30.
Tournament officials claim that the shark tournament serves the interest of science and conservation, yet this whitewash defies logic. Tournaments target the largest sharks; measurements and samples obtained are not representative of the population. The tournaments target vulnerable shark species such as the porbeagle, which are classified as vulnerable to extinction in neighboring Canada. A 2003 study estimated that all recorded shark species (with the exception of makos) have declined by more than 50 percent in the past eight to 15 years. And just last week a report in the journal Science showed conclusive evidence of the effects of declining shark populations on the larger ocean ecosystem. As shark numbers have gone down, the populations of skates and rays (sharks' prey) has increased, leading to a marked decrease in the scallop population. These studies highlight why sharks are in need of true conservation efforts, not marketing gimmicks for an event that serves the interests of a select group of people.
Until Oak Bluffs takes steps to disassociate itself from this cruel and ecologically destructive event, I will not visit or spend money on the Island, and I will encourage others to do the same.