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The Award Winning & Best News on Anna Maria Island, FL Since 1992

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Story Tools

Date of Issue: April 14, 2005

Sandscript

Register now: ‘Conference to die for’

Registration is requested for a May 19-21 mystery writer's conference in Sarasota. Many of Florida's favorite mystery authors will gather to discuss their works, meet readers and fans of Florida mysteries, and sign books. The event will be at Holiday Inn Airport and Marina and is being presented by the Sarasota County Film Commission.

Authors scheduled to appear include Wayne Barcomb ("Blood Tide," "All Are Naked"), James O. Born ("Walking Money," "Shock Wave"), Don Bruns ("Barbados Heart," "Jamaica Blue"), Tom Corcoran (Alex Rutledge mysteries), Tim Dorsey ("Torpedo Juice," "Stingray Shuffle"), Leslie Glass (April Woo novels), Jonathon King ("The Blue Edge of Midnight," "A Killing Night"), Peter King (Gourmet Detective and culinary mysteries), Jeff Lindsay ("Darkly Dreaming Dexter," "Deeply Devoted Dexter"), Joanne Meyer ("Fortune Cookie," "Heavenly Detour"), Barbara Parker ("Suspicion of Rage," "Suspicion of Innocence"), Les Standiford ("Raw Deal," "Bone Key"), James Swain (Tony Valentine novels), and Diane Vogt (Judge Wilhemina Carson series).

There will also be expert speakers on forensic and DNA evidence.

Cal Branch, noted John D. MacDonald expert, will discuss the influence of MacDonald on the mystery genre and today's authors.

Anyone interested may register by calling the Sarasota County Film Commission at 941-955-0991. Conference registration is $99 and includes all panels and discussions, two continental breakfasts, a boxed lunch Friday and an opening night reception. 

As part of the conference, the Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter will hold a luncheon meeting on Saturday immediately following the conference.

Call today and I'll see you in May.

"Dead of night" highlights one of Florida's worst problems

Florida mystery author Randy Wayne White generally hits the highs and lows of the state's environmental issues in his novels. In his newest book, "Dead of Night," White brings to the forefront the dangers posed by importation of non-native plants and animals into the state and country.

Exotic species generally don't have any natural predators, and therefore breed or expand unchecked.

I won't spoil White's story, but I will give you an excerpt to whet your interest."

"Four or five thousand exotic plant species have already established themselves in the United States, along with a couple of thousand exotic animals, all reproducing. Annually, these exotics cost us millions a year, because we must assume the aggressive role of artificial predator.

"Devastating examples of fecund-select exotics came to mind:

"The gypsy moth was brought to the United States from France by an entomologist who hoped to cross them with indigenous moths and create better silk. A few gypsy moths escaped, multiplied, multiplied again. They were soon an unchecked cloud that defoliated entire forests throughout New England.

"In the 1950s, government biologists turned calamity into cataclysm when they began spraying DDT to kill the moths. It took much too long for officials to admit that DDT also decimated our native insect and bird populations. Several species were poisoned to the brink of extinction - eagles, brown pelicans and osprey among them.

"Dragonflies, which prey voraciously on mosquitoes, were among the earliest of DDT's casualties, so mosquitoes bred out of control – which required spraying heavier concentrations of the chemical.

"DDT is a potent carcinogenic, readily absorbed through the cell walls of pasture grasses, ripening vegetables and herbaceous fish. It also seeped into our water systems. A generation of children grew up drinking DDT-laced milk and water and eating DDT-contaminated food. Unknown thousands of that generation are still suffering the effects. All because of an exotic moth.

"In Florida and neighboring states, there are too many examples of noxious exotics that breed, travel and destroy, unhampered by natural checks: The Cuban tree frog, the walking catfish, several species of tropical fish and, recently, the Indo-Pacific species of lionfish - dangerous because its spines are lethal

"Brazilian fire ants are some of the most vicious little bastards on Earth, and among the most ecologically destructive. The ant, named for its fiery bite, entered via ship through Mobile, Ala., in the 1930s - the beginning of a long, slow nightmare. Fire ants sprout wings during their breeding cycle, can travel miles during mating flights, and hatch copious numbers of eggs.

"The ant was soon killing local populations of native insects, whole colonies of ground-nesting birds, and infant mammals, as they ate their way into neighboring states. Ironically - and sadly - I've yet to hear of an environmental group that has aimed its financial or political guns at this biological cancer. Annually, fire ants destroy more indigenous species than the most heartless of developers."

Deep-sea fish farming feud looms

Watery battle lines are being drawn over a proposal by the Bush administration to open fish farming in the open oceans.

Proponents hope to raise fish in huge nets affixed to derelict oil productions platforms in federal waters around the country, including oil rigs in the eastern Gulf of Mexico by Lousiana, Mississippi or Texas. Currently, the ocean fish farming is limited to state waters and may be conducted thanks to proposed state permits.

Advocates of the "mariculture" program said the farming would offset an estimated $7 billion deficit in the nation's trade with other nations for fish. Similar farming has been tried and is successful in Korea, Taiwan and China.

The oil rigs make a perfect anchor for the fish farms: It's a solid base to tie the nets onto, there is plenty of room to store fish food, lots of winches and other heavy equipment to aid in the harvest, and even quarters for workers to live in as they till the seas.

Opponents paint a more grim picture of oceangoing feedlots filled with pollutants. The fish food would be concentrated in small areas, providing a pollution "pulse" to the oceans. There is also the problem of genetically problematic fish escaping the nets and adversely interacting with the wild population.

Pollution and genetic concerns were the basis for Florida officials to reject a proposal last year by some Pinellas County entrepreneurs to create a fish farm offshore of Anna Maria Island. The group had hoped to anchor nets to the bottom and, using scuba divers, feed the fish until they were big enough to harvest. It would have been the first such fish farm in U.S. deep waters - the proposal called for the mariculture facility to be in about 45-foot depths.

Sandscript factoid

Speaking of endangered species, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be updating the state's imperiled species listing process later this week. The group said if the proposed updates are approved "Florida will have the most effective, science-based, recovery-oriented process in the world."

Part of the program involves bringing in guidelines established by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a globally recognized process.

The proposed updates will further strengthen the process by involving a biological review panel throughout the evaluation process and requiring an additional peer review of that panel's assessment. 

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