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Author/fisherman to Discuss Struggle Between Whales and People

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY (March 10, 2005) — In her 2004 book Entanglements: The Intertwined Fates of Whales and Fishermen, one-time commercial fisherman Tora Johnson explores the contentious, complex, and heartrending political climate that surrounds the world's most endangered large whale, the North American right whale. Johnson will discuss her book, whale entanglement in fishing gear, whale rescue, and relevant policy, on Thursday, March 24 at 5:30 p.m., in Sanders Auditorium at Vassar College. Immediately following her talk, Johnson's book will be available for purchase and signing.

Entanglements (University of Florida Press) explores the clash of cultures and personalities among fishermen, scientists, and whale advocates struggling to save both the endangered North Atlantic right whale and the livelihoods of thousands of Atlantic coastal families. By most counts, about 300 of these whales remain in the North Atlantic, and scientists warn that collisions with fishing gear are contributing to their decline.

The book's thoughtful discussion of the plight of fishermen and whales, and of the frustrations between fishing communities and conservationists, presents an authentic microcosm of the global conflict between human demands on the environment and nature's finite capacity for supporting those demands.

Publisher's Weekly listed Entanglements in a preview of the season's best books on nature and the environment. Randall R. Reeves, chairman of the Cetacean Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union, and author of the National Audubon Society Guide to Marine Mammals of the World, praised Johnson's "knack for storytelling, but also a sense of balance in her reporting, and an evident commitment to truth-telling."

Before her son was born in 1996, Johnson made a career of teaching and crewing aboard several of the large sailing vessels that ply the coast of New England, as well as commercial fishing in Alaska. She holds a U.S. Coast Guard captain's license to operate vessels up to 100 gross tons.

Tora Johnson now teaches human ecology and geographic information science at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, and has taught at the University of Maine at Machias, Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Cape Cod Community College.

Also a writer and education consultant, Johnson was the marine reporter for the Martha's Vineyard Times from 1998 to 2000. In addition to columns and feature articles for magazines and newspapers, she has published the Guide to Freshwater Animals without Backbones (with Arlene De Strulle, The Catskill Center, 1997).

Johnson's current human ecological research focuses on conflicts between fisheries and marine mammal policy. She specializes in marine and hydrological applications of geographic information systems, and explores innovative media and methods for conveying geographic information. She earned a B. S. in Biology from University of Oregon, and an M. Phil. in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic.

Johnson's talk is sponsored by the Environmental Studies Program at Vassar College, and for more information call (845) 437-5430 or (845) 437-7404. Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact Cathy Jennings as far in advance as possible, at (845) 437-5370.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, March 10, 2005