SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
October 01, 1979
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October 01, 1979


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The Carter Administration announced last week that it would allow drilling for oil and gas on the Georges Bank off Cape Cod, one of the world's richest fishing grounds. The decision was a defeat for environmentalists and fishermen who wanted Georges Bank declared a marine sanctuary, a designation that would have prevented oil exploration. Backers of sanctuary status noted that the world suffers a shortage of protein as well as oil and that Georges Bank is the source of 17% of the annual U.S. commercial catch of such bottom-feeding species as cod, haddock and hake. And they expressed concern that drilling would endanger the fishes' habitat.

The decision to allow exploration was defended by Richard A. Frank, director of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees marine sanctuaries and which reached agreement with the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency on the proposed drilling. Frank conceded that "the risks of oil drilling on Georges Bank should not be underestimated; they are serious." But he added, "We intend to take all action we can to protect this rich ecosystem."

There was reason to wonder what action Frank could have in mind. Dr. Howard Sanders, a marine biologist at the Woods Hole (Mass.) Oceanographic Institution who has studied the effects of oil drilling on bottom-feeding fish, says, "There is inevitable, chronic low level pollution caused by leakage as a result of drilling. There is no known technology for preventing it. Over a period of time there can be severe environmental damage. Because of drilling and related disruption, the density of certain kinds of animal life is often very low. And that doesn't even consider the damage that would be caused by a blowout."

Sanders stops short of opposing offshore drilling everywhere, choosing instead to emphasize the uniqueness of Georges Bank. He and other environmentalists are alarmed by the Administration's decision. As Sarah M. Bates, a lawyer for the Conservation Law Foundation of New England, puts it, "If the Commerce Department is unwilling to take on the Georges Bank with all its fishery resources as a sanctuary, it seems inconceivable it would take on other valuable areas."


The hometown Pirates were again in the thick of the National League East race (page 18), but you wouldn't have known it at two of Pittsburgh's favorite watering holes, the Jamestown and the Living Room. Patrons at both establishments crowded the bar to watch the Monday-night telecast of the Washington Redskins' 27-0 rout of the Giants. The Pirates were meanwhile beating the Expos 2-1 in Montreal on another channel, but the viewers were content to let the bartender periodically—and briefly—switch to that baseball showdown. In Steeler country, the NFL apparently can dominate the market even with a one-sided early-season game between two out-of-town teams.

The situation aggrieves the Pirates, who last year fell just short of overtaking the Phillies for the division title, yet drew only 964,106 fans to finish 11th in attendance among the 12 National League teams. Attendance is higher this season—1,202,848 through last week—but the advance sale for this week's crucial four-game series with the Expos at Three Rivers Stadium was disconcertingly slow. Tacitly acknowledging their place in Pittsburgh's athletic peeking order, the Pirates were reduced to asking Steelers Rocky Bleier and John Banaszak to give attendance for the big series a lift. Bleier and Banaszak obliged by appearing last week in TV commercials in which they urged Pittsburgh fans to support their pennant-contending baseball team.


A dispute is raging among sport fishing cognoscenti over the rod-and-reel record for brown trout. For more than a century that record was credited to a certain W. Muir, who supposedly caught a brown weighing 39� pounds in Scotland's Loch Awe in 1866. Among those who accepted Muir's catch as authentic was Field & Stream, long this country's most trusted custodian of game fishing records. To readers of that magazine's annual compilation of records, W. Muir was the Babe Ruth of brown trout anglers.

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