Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

When considering the current state of the striped bass fishery, it is interesting to note that geography plays an important role in assessing how much trouble the species is in. While Massachusetts and Maine have experienced subpar bass fishing for several years, states to the south of us have enjoyed exactly the opposite.

For instance, in Virginia a new state record 73-pound striper was caught just last month. And in 2006 there were 74 bass of 50 pounds or more weighed into the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, according to tournament director Claude Bain. That was more 50-pounders than were caught in all of New England that year!

In 2008 bass fishing was good as far north as Rhode Island, almost within sight of the Vineyard. A 73-pounder was landed on rod and reel, and a new state spearfishing record 68.5-pounder was also registered. Rod and reelers caught thousands upon thousands of big bass in Narragansett Bay, where the fish were feeding on huge schools of adult menhaden.

Big schools of adult menhaden have also been present in New Jersey for the past several years, and bass fishing has been excellent there.

The majority of big striped bass seem to have changed their historic migration routes which brought them north to Massachusetts and are instead staying to the south, feeding on the large menhaden that are plentiful there.

Big bass need big bait, and they travel to where it is present. In recent years the Vineyard has not had enough menhaden or herring to attract large numbers of trophy fish, and the quality of our sportfishing has been severely degraded.

Of course it has been made worse by the commercial fishery, particularly in the overfished Gay Head, Noman’s, Squibnocket triangle. When you take something away, it is not there anymore. It is that simple.

As has been noted in recent issues of the Gazette, there are numerous reasons to worry about the overall health of the striped bass population: overfishing, disease, diminished young-of-the-year indexes. On the Vineyard add geography and lack of big bait.

Kib Bramhall

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Over the past two weeks my name has been published in both newspapers with articles claiming I maintain an untidy parcel of land in Katama. What has happened to the natives that cared about our wonderful lifestyle and unique community in which I was an avid hunter and fisherman as a young adult, and covered much of our Island seeking the best places to hunt and fish? I am also a well driller, excavator, and plumber by trade. I have watched our Island’s development and been a part of it, but the hardest part of being exposed to this whole process has been dealing with transplants, buyers, builders and developers that have no morals, hearts, or concern for neighbors or the environment.

One customer of mine recently said, “Bob, you drilled a well for me two years ago and now someone wants to build on the lot next to me, what can we do to stop it?”

I married a local girl and moved onto this property in the early 1970s before zoning, when our neighbors were farmers and fishermen. To make a living, I was involved in different types of work as a typical Islander. We have fished for food and I managed to acquire a scallop boat and a fishing boat. We drill wells and we now do excavation, and I am a licensed plumber, so we acquired equipment for that also. We’ve had pigs, chickens, and numerous gardens to supply our food. I would say we were typical working class Islanders, and it is all about survival in our home.

Then we watched as zoning became a part of our lives. Who was it for? Does it work? All I know is that I have also seen it work against the environment. We live in Katama and the town has labeled it a critical planning district. I never really could understand who drew the lines and why. Now I can’t keep my clothesline, but we don’t want to waste energy with an electric dryer? I can only have one unregistered vehicle, but I need several cars just for parts to keep the three I have running. Funny how stuff collects around here all winter, then spring cleaning comes, once work picks up, and you can finally afford the dump fees. I have three children that seem to have at least five friends, each adopted lads, and now we have bikes, basketballs, skateboards and more parts for our vehicles. I feel we are a typical native family.

Even though we are abutted by a planned modern development that is approximately 70 acres, for some reason, zoning has allowed them a cluster development with only 3/4-acre lots, when the standard was 1.5-acre lots. This doubled the septic system concentrations near our home, but that was permitted, if they ran in town water. I, along with most of my neighbors, have a well, so we are naturally concerned about the environment and contaminates to our water supply.

Then they leave a buffer zone all around this 70-acre subdivision to conceal it from the road and the neighbors, maybe for privacy, and maybe an environmentally good thing to do. Now that it has been a few years, I have watched my neighbors clear cut this buffer zone to make their lots more usable; they also cut a path to the field next door. There goes my privacy and my equity, but that event does not make the newspaper. I remember a day when neighbors meant something different. Can we continue to survive on this Island if we selectively choose to enforce rules on some, but not for all?

Robert Sequeira



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I read with interest the article by Sam Bungey in the Gazette of Feb. 12 concerning OUI arrests and convictions on the Vineyard. He has set the table. I hope now he will do some investigative reporting and serve the meal by following the story to an informed conclusion.

How does the conviction rate on the Vineyard compare with our neighbors in America or on Nantucket? Is the seemingly inequitable result in court attributable to poor policing, highly paid lawyering, deals for the favored few, weak laws or deficient prosecution? How large is the problem of selective enforcement from town to town? If you are over the limit and caught by the police while driving, is there a best strategy for beating the system? Is there one best defense lawyer to call? Is there some factor in common among the group that was dismissed? What is the return rate for previously dismissed OUI cases, back in court for a similar offense? How many have escaped OUI convictions more than once on the Vineyard?

I hope Sam will pursue the story.

Bill McGrath

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I was delighted to read your recent front page news story headlined: “A Green Light for Cape Wind — Federal Agency Issues Its Final Environmental Report Giving Go-Ahead to Wind Farm; Few Roadblocks Remain.” As a longtime Chappaquiddick homeowner whose house on Wasque Point will look directly out on the faraway bank of giant wind turbines, I say hooray!

This is good news. And how appropriate that it should come the same week that our extraordinary new President took office.

“We will work tirelessly to . . . roll back the specter of a warming planet,” President Obama declared in his inaugural address.

Let’s hope so; time is running out. Under the clueless Bush administration, our nation has wasted eight precious years of dithering and dallying on environmental issues, snubbing any meaningful steps toward solutions to the existential problem of global warming. Meanwhile, for the past seven years here on the Vineyard and on Nantucket and on the Cape, opponents to the wind farm have done everything in their power to block the progress of this forward-looking project, citing all manner of arguments that, in the end, come down to only one: “It will ruin our view!”

On a healthy planet, there would be no need to build wind farms in our oceans or acres of solar panels across our deserts. But our planet is not healthy. It is running a terrible fever and is in danger, according to our scientists, of going into permanent, irreversible shock. We have no choice.

“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them,” President Obama stated in his address. “The world has changed, and we must change with it.”

For my part, I welcome the change. I look forward to staring out my living room window sometime in the next few years and seeing sparkles of light on the distant horizon as the revolving blades of the giant turbines catch rays of the setting sun — knowing that, in a small way, the turbines are helping to preserve the planet for my children and my children’s children, and that, notwithstanding a change in the view, I supported their construction.

Timothy Leland

Boston and



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

How can we allow our Island to be without an animal shelter? This is not just a rescue and find-a-home shelter, but one that gives aid to strays and animals given up by their owners, by having them checked out by our capable local animal doctors who then neuter them. The MSPCA implants a chip into each animal so that they can be located if they stray again. As a result of the good work of the Vineyard MSPCA, there are no stray dogs and relatively few stray cats wandering the roads and woods of our Island.

We need, as a community, to step up by volunteering or assisting financially. There is already a good base for operation in place and if handled properly, the additional funds required to stabilize and keep the shelter are not substantial.

Please send an e-mail as soon as possible to executive director, Ron Whitney at Tell him that you do not want to see the MSPCA close down and that you are interested in making a commitment by becoming a member of a community-based animal shelter. Your e-mail will go onto a list of potential member/volunteers which will be sent to the MSPCA and with significant community support, perhaps we can form a board of dedicated volunteers who are serious about charting a future course for the shelter.

Please help our animals on our Island; send an e-mail now.

Joyce Brigish

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The Gazette’s Feb. 13 article about Edgartown in winter left out one important downtown enterprise that has no off-season: the Edgartown Free Public Library. The library is open to the public 41 hours each week, bringing both residents and nonresidents into our downtown district all through the year. Indeed, some of those who come into town to visit the library also spend dollars at any number of our Edgartown businesses.

Our library’s point of entrance is the historic Carnegie building, which dates to 1904. Our doorway is seeing more traffic lately as our patrons look, in these difficult economic times, for the many free services libraries provide. Moreover, we continue to have a knowledgeable, dedicated and helpful staff.

Our library holds approximately 40,000 materials — books and magazines, DVDs and videos, audio books, compact discs and more. The library is a member of the Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing Network, which offers easy access to the nearly 1.4 million items held by more than 30 participating libraries. With interlibrary loan services, we provided our patrons last year with more than 9,400 items from other libraries in our network, across the state and across the nation. Annually, we welcome more than 65,000 visitors and have a circulation of more than 70,000 items.

As some may know, this is a critical year of the capital campaign for a new library building, and the state Board of Library Commissioners has set aside $4.6 million toward construction of the approved addition. Edgartown elementary school children are collecting pennies to help build the addition. The Edgartown Library Foundation is actively raising funds for this project. With continued support from the public, we hope soon to embark on building the new library that will keep our users up to date with both electronic and other materials.

Herb Foster



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

In this time of economic crisis, it is wonderful to see the community step up to help those in need. The Oak Bluffs park and recreation department recently held a food and fuel Valentine’s Day raffle to benefit not only the Niantic Park basketball program, but also those who took a chance. Four Island businesses gave generously by way of 100 gallons of fuel each; certificates between $25 and $100 were also contributed.

Winners had the option of keeping the prize or giving it to someone else in need. In stressful times like these, history has shown us that family and community can come together in their neighborhood parks and work together. To contribute to the Niantic Park restoration project, please call 508-693-0072.

Nancy Phillips

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am a recent arrival to the Vineyard and have rapidly grown into an avid reader of the Vineyard Gazette. I was inspired by a piece in the Feb. 6 edition by Jack Schimmelman titled Splashdown in the Hudson: A Matter of Choice. He selected precise metaphors, symbolism and imagery that, at this time, would speak to even the most literal of minds. The miracle on the Hudson could not have happened on a more perfect day. Simply put, America, and the world for that matter, seemed to be hungry for a miracle, regardless of if we acknowledged this hunger or not. Thank you, Mr. Schimmelman, for collecting our thoughts and unveiling them so eloquently in black and white.

Stephanie Johnson

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Not sure how many folks are aware of one of the Coast Guard’s most famous rescues that took place off Chatham in 1952. Two tankers broke in half during a gale on Feb. 18-19. The CG36500 was sent across the Chatham Bar to attempt a rescue from the stern section. No one expected the 36-footer to make it across the bar in such conditions. The coxswain was a very young Bernard Weber. He and a crew of three not only made it across, but managed to take 33 crew members off Pendelton’s Stern in the worst conditions imaginable! Then made it back across that bar without a compass (which was smashed).

Anyway, Bernie crossed the bar for the last time about two weeks ago at the age of 80. I once had the honor of running that boat from Chatham to Menemsha during its last year in service. It has since been restored and is at the Cape Cod Museum. Bernie and his crew received the Gold Life Saving Medal for that rescue. He also made the last rescue ever, using the last Lyle gun on Cape Cod: six fisherman off a F/V aground off Race Point during another gale. I don’t know how many guys this man saved during his career in the Coast Guard, but it was many. Anyway, just thought this fellow should be remembered in some way.

Wayne V. Iacono