|'The Jewel of Norfolk,' a fanciful mermaid sculpture located in Norfolk, Virginia, courtesy of NOAA.|
by Dan Bacher
NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, has revealed the startling truth: mermaids aren't real.
"No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found," according to a statement from NOAA (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/mermaids.html). "Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples? That’s a question best left to historians, philosophers, and anthropologists."
The NOAA statement unveiling the shocking news apparently came after the airing of a recent Animal Planet TV show "Mermaids: The Body Found."
NOAA traced the history of the mermaid legends in its statement.
"Mermaids — those half-human, half-fish sirens of the sea — are legendary sea creatures chronicled in maritime cultures since time immemorial," NOAA stated. "The ancient Greek epic poet Homer wrote of them in The Odyssey. In the ancient Far East, mermaids were the wives of powerful sea-dragons, and served as trusted messengers between their spouses and the emperors on land. The aboriginal people of Australia call mermaids yawkyawks – a name that may refer to their mesmerizing songs."
"The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species. Magical female figures first appear in cave paintings in the late Paleolithic (Stone Age) period some 30,000 years ago, when modern humans gained dominion over the land and, presumably, began to sail the seas. Half-human creatures, called chimeras, also abound in mythology — in addition to mermaids, there were wise centaurs, wild satyrs, and frightful minotaurs, to name but a few," NOAA noted.
This "illuminating" statement was issued by the same agency that has done nothing to stop the killing of millions of Sacramento splittail, Central Valley chinook salmon, steelhead, striped bass, Delta smelt and other species in the state and federal Delta pumps every year in order to export massive quantities of northern California water to corporate agribusiness and southern California. While mermaids may be a myth, the slaughter of fish in the Delta death pumps is not. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/05/07/carnage-in-the-pumps/)
This is also the same agency that, under the leadership of NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, has pushed the controversial "catch shares" program to privatize the oceans. A catch share, also known as an individual fishing quota, is a transferable voucher that gives individuals or businesses the ability to access a fixed percentage of the total authorized catch of a particular species.
"Fishery management systems based on catch shares turn a public resource into private property and have lead to many socioeconomic and environmental problems," according to Food and Water Watch. (http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/fish/fair-fish/catch-shares/)
Again, while mermaids may be a myth, the destruction caused to public trust resources, the environment and fishing communities by Lubchenco's "catch shares" program is not.
The NOAA statement was issued after the Animal Planet TV show "Mermaids: The Body Found,” part of the network's annual "Monster Week," apparently fooled a number of viewers with its use of computer imagery to depict the mythical creatures.
NOAA apparently felt it needed to address questions about the alleged authenticity of mermaids after the faux-documentary created a big splash with its millions of viewers (http://news.discovery.com/animals/noaa-mermaids-120629.html).
According to a press release from Animal Planet, "Mermaids: The Body Found, makes a strong case for the existence of the mermaid, a creature with a surprisingly human evolutionary history, whose ancestral branch splits off from a shared human root. The film is science fiction, using science as a springboard into imagination and centering the story on the following real-world events:
In the early 1990s, the US Navy began a series of covert sonar tests, which were linked to mass die-offs of whales, which washed up on beaches throughout the world. For years, the Navy denied they were responsible for these beachings.
In 1997, scientists at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded a mysterious sound (called “The Bloop”) in the deep Pacific, which was thought to be organic in nature. It has never been identified." (http://press.discovery.com/ekits/monster-week-mermaids/press-release.html)
I'm glad that NOAA has issued a statement revealing the shocking fact that mermaids aren't real, but I would be much happier if the agency made a much better effort to stop the massive fish kills that take place in the Delta death pumps and abandoned its environmentally and economically destructive catch shares program.
Zeke Grader, the Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, several years ago acknowledged NOAA's poor record in restoring Central Valley chinook salmon, steelhead and other fisheries during the Bush administration by joking that "NOAA Fisheries" should be changed to "No Fisheries" to more accurately reflect its mission.
NOAA may be correct in denying the existence of a mythical creature like the mermaid, but the agency is completely wrong in denying the existence of the massive environmental harm caused by the "catch shares" program and the enormous threat posed to Sacramento splittail and other species by the Delta pumps, as evidenced by its failure to list the splittail as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2011/sacramento-splittail-06-08-2011.html