[Coral-List] Polar Bear Listing HAS NOT Been Rejected

Brent Plater bplater at biologicaldiversity.org
Sat May 20 20:59:07 EDT 2006


I do not envy your position as moderator of this list.  With its large
number of subscribers, international scope, and government restrictions,
managing the list must be far more work than most subscribers would be
willing to take on.

But if in fact the reason Mr. Risk (a man I do not know but who's surname is
so perfect for this discussion at times I wonder if this is just a witty law
school hypothetical) has been placed on probation is because his post was a
"flame" of another professional, than it is about time you put Mr. Gene
Shinn on probation as well.

Mr. Shinn has on more than one occasion used this forum to attack the
credibility and impugn the motives of my organization and the petitions we
have filed to protect imperiled species, despite my direct communications
with him and my long-standing offer to discuss his concerns and motivations
in a more professional manner.

While I do not suggest that my organization is infallible or that it should
be immune from criticism, criticisms raised in this forum should be based on
scientific evidence or at least sound logic.

Unfortunately Mr. Shinn's tactics have been limited to various species of ad
hominem attacks, while conspicuously avoiding the facts presented in both
our coral and polar bear petitions.  His most recent posts are prime
examples.  Mr. Shinn posted statements he knew or should have known were
completely false simply to attack our motives and credibility.  For example,
he baldly states that the Fish and Wildlife Service has denied our petition
to protect polar bears under the Endangered Species Act in a transparent
attempt to cast doubt on the petition we filed to protect the Caribbean
Acroporids.  But this is undeniably a false statement: the Fish and Wildlife
Service accepted our petition to protect the polar bear on February 9, 2006,
finding that it presents "substantial scientific or commercial information
indicating that the petitioned action of listing the polar bear may be
warranted."  The agency is currently conducting a status review of the
species, as NMFS did after it accepted our petition to list the Caribbean
Acroporids.  The Fish and Wildlife Service's finding can be viewed here:
And the polar bear petition we filed can be viewed here:

That we are even talking about polar bears on this list is a direct
consequence of Mr. Shinn's choice to try and impugn our motives and the
evidence presented in our petition through a classic ad hominem attack.
Rather than address the merits of the coral petition-which in fact presented
a conservative estimate of coral decline in comparison to the findings of
NMFS' award-winning Biological Review Team-Mr. Shinn forwarded a specious
attack on our polar bear petition, which Mr. Risk correctly points out is
inconsistent with what the fossil records teaches us about the evolution of
the species.  Yet Mr. Shinn, out of ignorance or malice, suggests that this
critique is somehow dispositive of the polar bear's plight, and that the
"same" unsupported criticism should inform people's opinions about the
listing process for Caribbean Acroporids.

If anything is the same between these two cases, its that Mr. Shinn and Dr.
Mitch Taylor will likely both be found to be on the wrong side of history.
In my conversations with Mr. Shinn over the past two years he has explained
to me his true concerns with protecting corals under the Endangered Species
Act.  They range from his personal political views about the appropriateness
of "big government" making a "power play" over the corals, his belief that
those who wish to protect corals are just in it to "make money," his fears
that big government will take his permits to "take" corals away, and the
perceived slight caused by the fact that our petition did not mention his
pet research project, African dust, as a substantial cause of coral

While the last was a legitimate and conceded oversight, I have explained to
Mr. Shinn that on the remaining statements we would have to agree to
disagree, because they are precisely the bureaucratic inertia that has led
so many agencies to specialize in the macabre practice of monitoring a
species demise without lifting a finger to do something about it.  It is
possible that Mr. Shinn is right and it is simply too late or the problems
too complex to remedy coral declines, but the fact that we have decided to
act while Mr. Shinn would prefer to sit and monitor does not give him
license to post false statements and unjustifiably attack our motives and
Thanks Jim,

Brent Plater
Staff Attorney
Center for Biological Diversity
San Francisco Bay Area Office
1095 Market St., Suite 511
San Francisco, CA 94103
P: 415-436-9682
F: 415-436-9683
bplater at biologicaldiversity.org

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Gene Shinn eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Fri May 19 12:33:16 EDT 2006

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Dear Jim, I was especially up set about unlisting Mike Risk
especially since he was responding to the polar bear article I posted
on the list. Mike is one of my special buddies so I hated to see it
happen. We can all depend on Mike to give us an honest and accurate
appraisal of coral issues. I do understand the fish bowl in which you
operate while at the same time know, as you do, that that is one of
the most common words in the English language. But I do understand
that you do what you have to do as a government agency. Ironically
others responded to my posting and provided abundant information
about polar bears. I suppose they missed the point I was making which
was about how different government agencies respond differently to
petitions from the same outside pressure groups.
      As most readers of the coral list know I questioned the need and
motives of listing Acropora in an article I published in a 2004 issue
of the Marine Pollution Bulletin. My point was and still is that no
one really knows the cause of Acropora demise, (along with many other
coral species), and therefore no one knows what to protect it from.
It was interesting to read that the Biological Review Team (BRT) who
did an excellent review of Acropora did not in fact suggest that it
be listed. They only concluded that it was threatened, something we
have known for over 20 years. Hurricanes and possibly warming still
head the list of threats to Acropora species.
      After reading how Fish and Wild life (Dept of Interior) rejected
polar bear listing I became a little confused. In the 1970s there was
a move to list Pillar coral. As I recall it was Fish and Wild life
that was in charge of the Endangered Species Act and they rejected
listing that coral. Can anyone enlighten me when and how NOAA (Dept
of Commerce) took authority to list corals? (Please choose your words
carefully). Gene


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
Marine Science Center (room 204)
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158----------------------------------


Message: 2
Date: Fri, 19 May 2006 07:10:09 -0400
From: "Jim Hendee" <Jim.Hendee at noaa.gov>
Subject: [Coral-List] Regarding Mike Risk's comment
To: Coral-List Subscribers <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Cc: Michael Risk <riskmj at mcmaster.ca>
Message-ID: <446DA791.5050303 at noaa.gov>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1

First, see Mike Risk's response, below.

Secondly, Mike has been a friend and colleague for several years, so
this is a real disappointment and has really bothered me beyond the
8-hour work day; and yes, I know he's just the kind of sane voice we
often need.  That's why I had invited him in the past as a speaker to a
conference I held.  Yes, I know we're "all adults here."  We're also
supposed to all be professionals here, and why do I have to remind some
people that this is a U.S. Government sponsored list where such things
just absolutely can not be tolerated (no "inflammatory commentary" or
"any activity that would bring discredit on the Department of
Commerce").  Should it be okay to say to a fellow professional that he's
full of [....]?  Aside from the language, one of the rules is no flaming
of colleagues allowed ("engaging in prohibited discriminatory
conduct").  If I allow this comment, why not allow every other
emotionally charged and slang word in the lexicon, and allow us all to
rip each other in a public forum?  Well, if I did, I'd be fired and/or
the list would be shut down.  Hey, it's bad enough that I didn't even
read the post before I approved it.  I've already been admonished for
that in the past.  It's mainly disappointing that I can't even trust my
own judgment any more.  If I had caught his remark in time, I would have
just bounced it, and he would have been more careful next time, I'm
sure, so I'm just going to put Mike "on probation" [I've done that
before for another transgressor].

This is a real pain when this type of thing happens.  Can we all just
follow the rules, please?  Here they are, for all you "adults" out there:



-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	Re: [Coral-List] Acropora and polar bears
Date: 	Wed, 17 May 2006 14:14:48 -0400
From: 	Michael Risk <riskmj at univmail.cis.mcmaster.ca>
To: 	Jim Hendee <Jim.Hendee at noaa.gov>


I wonder if you would be kind enough to post the following message on
the list.

Dear Listers:

I write to apologise to any who may have been offended by the language
in my recent post. I sometimes let my tongue get the better of my

I am especially mortified by having put Jim in an invidious position.
He trusted me to post sane comments of scientific relevance, and was
caught unawares. The list he moderates is a US government-sponsored
list, not a private chat line. He was quite right to unsubscribe me,
and I support the decision.



Message: 2
Date: Tue, 16 May 2006 14:34:15 -0400
From: Gene Shinn <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Subject: [Coral-List] Acropora and polar bears
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Message-ID: <a0620072fc08fcafd8db4@[]>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii" ; format="flowed"

Those of you following the Acropora listing controversy might find this
Same players, same issue, different government agency. Gene

No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
Marine Science Center (room 204)
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158----------------------------------

Message: 8
Date: Tue, 16 May 2006 20:58:00 -0400
From: "Michael Risk" <riskmj at univmail.cis.mcmaster.ca>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Acropora and polar bears
To: Gene Shinn <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>,	coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Message-ID: <web-126382896 at cgpsrv2.cis.mcmaster.ca>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="ISO-8859-1"

Hi Gene.

Nice, as far as it goes-and it's good to see the CBC quoted on
coral-list. But on some fundamental grounds, the guy is full of [CENSORED].

Polar bears have NOT existed through "many such climatic cycles." They
are believed to be the most recent mammalian species, having split off
from grizzlies during the last glaciation-ie, as a species they are
maybe 20K old.

CBC last week carried an article about a hybrid polar bear-grizzly that
had been shot by some rich dude from the States ($60,000 gets you a
chance to shoot a fine-looking animal that should have been left
alone). Strange-looking beast-white body, brown circles around the eyes
like a racoon. DNA typing established the hybridisation, which is
believed to have happened because of...

...climate change.

So be careful what "experts" you listen to.

(Can you say "[CENSORED]" on coral-list? Let's find out.)

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