Thursday, July 2, 2009


As global warming causes sea levels to rise, the coasts will appear to sink—an optical illusion. On the other hand, the quality of the L.A. Times’ reporting on environmental issues has definitely been sinking to deeper and increasingly embarrassing depths.

Today’s L.A. Times has an article,0,1646681.story about a married couple in a rural Nevada town who want to sell live “lobster” in their struggling restaurant, and their years-long battle with state regulators. The human interest aspect of the story will cause readers—including yours truly—to sympathize with Bob and Pam Eddy, as they try to increase sales by offering “lobster” on the menu.

The word “lobster” is in quotation marks because the edible critters are actually freshwater Australian Red Claw Crayfish, Cherax quadricarinatus: a hefty red crawdad native to northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. In the online & print scientific journal Biological Invasions’ January 2007 issue, Ahyong and Yeo discuss the invasion of Singapore’s freshwater systems by this lobster from down under. They also list other locations around the world, including Mexico, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico that already have feral populations. The Times article’s author, Ashley Powers, sticks to the human interest angle in the story, occasionally veering off into the world of the Eddy’s legal battles with various Nevada State agencies and politicians.

So far, so good, but Powers fails to ask the obvious question: Why is the State of Nevada so determined to keep the Eddys from achieving their capitalist destiny? Simple: the Eddys don’t just want to serve fresh “lobster” on the spot; they want to bag & tag live Australian Red Claws, so that customers can steam the little beasties when they get home. The problem with that, of course, is that a certain percentage of customers who drive off into the infinite sagebrush desert with an eight-legged Australian singing ‘Waltzing Matilda’ on the back seat have children who will nix dinner. The Red Claws will wind up in a goldfish bowl, and dad will find himself squeezing into a booth at Long John Silver’s, where a 19 year old waitress will introduce herself by saying, “My name is Wendy, and tonight I will be your wench.”

Eventually, some of the cranky crustaceans will wind up in the local lake, sewage pond, or wildlife refuge when the kids or some misguided aunt decide to “return them to the wild”. In their article Ahyong & Yeo mention some of the lovely diseases that native fish, mollusks, and crustaceans can catch when non-natives are introduced from other parts of the world. Said parasites might not affect humans who eat their hosts e.g. the Red Claw, but local water-dwelling populations can suddenly and inexplicably crash. Next thing you know, fisherman—the same law & order conservatives who, like the Eddys, mutter about the pending socialist apocalypse—are standing around their favorite fishing spots, grumbling about the disappearance of bass and catfish. After a while, the same Nye County NRA nutjobs who think that Obama is going to show up at their house in a black U.N. helicopter—to confiscate their firearms—start grousing about the diminished numbers of ducks and geese.

Speaking of ducks and geese, the Times completely dropped the ball on February 21st 2009, when it ran the ultimate fluff piece (must have been a slow news cycle—no movie stars died that week) about a West L.A. electrician named Jesus Hernandez who bought a baby duck that turned out to be a domestic goose—much to his neighbors’ annoyance. Hernandez’ brilliant solution was to drive across town to East L.A., where he released the honker at Hollenbeck Park. Attempts to explain to the ecologically uneducated writers at the Times that they were endorsing the illegal introduction of non-native species were met with resounding silence, followed by obfuscation that showed a complete lack of any training in the biological sciences. Writer Bob Pool and his underling appeared unaware that the State of California’s Department of Fish & Game has people that deal exclusively with the illegal introduction of non-natives. They’re trying to keep their heads above water, so chasing after a 60 year old guy in L.A. and his goose is a low priority. Needless to say, the clodhoppers at the City of L.A. Parks Department demonstrated their typical lack of spine, not wanting to be quoted by a reporter (I use the term loosely), they limp-wristedly declared that they “do not condone the dumping of pets in parks”.

Your tax dollars at work.

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