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Seeing the Light

People caused problems include over-hunting in the extreme - murkier oceans.

Many conservationists and environmentalists accept recreational hunting and fishing. Some will even argue that such activities foster an appreciation of the outdoors and wildlife, thereby winning more people over the environmentalist cause. Few people, however, would argue that a cabinet minister in the province of Quebec's government has the proper hunting ethic.

Population minister Remy Trudel recently admitted that he and seven of his friends went hunting in Argentina for six days - killing some 18,000 doves, pigeons and turtle doves. He said he didn't view their 'bag' as excessive - but felt he was actually helping Argentina to reduce its feathered population.

"There are 20 million birds hurting the agriculture of Argentina," Trudel said. "The hunt was done within the rules of the country and environment.

"They're really easy to kill," he reported. "In fact, it's more shooting than hunting. It might seem like a lot, but I always hunt with respect for the environment."

Trudel says he has loved hunting since growing up in western Quebec's rural Abitibi region. Reaction to his trip, however, has "made him think." We should certainly hope that maybe he'll 'see the light'.

The sad truth, however, is that many people who would never dream of killing birds or other wildlife for 'sport' cause even more damage to the environment than would killing even thousands of birds. For example, what 'nature loving' environmentalist wouldn't like to live near a beautiful coastline? But by doing so, they could prevent underway reefs from 'seeing the light' - thereby contributing to the serious decline that has occurred in recent years in the health and extent of coral reefs.

Sunlight is essential for coral reefs - but the development of coastal areas and the erosion of beaches has contributed to increasingly murky waters in many areas where coral reefs are found. Charles Yentsch of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in West Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and his colleagues found that some reefs in the Florida Keys are getting barely enough sunlight to sustain themselves.

They claim the reefs are getting just enough light to survive, leaving little or nothing to build onto the reef. As the water gets murkier the corals are also forced to move towards shallower water, where waves can damage them.

"They are kind of caught between the jaws of a vice," says Yentsch. "The transparency has changed significantly in the past 10 or 20 years, so that the amount of light reaching the reef corals in some areas is really too low to sustain dynamic growth," says Yentsch. "I think it's had a major effect."

Click here for another story about the problems suspected of afffecting coral reefs.