Opening the St. Croix to alewives

The Maine legislature occasionally gets it right. This is one of those times:

The Legislature passed a bill Wednesday to end an 18-year blockade that has prevented alewives from running in most of the St. Croix River.

L.D. 72 passed the Senate by a vote of 33-0. The House voted 123-24 to enact the measure. The margins are sufficient to enact the emergency bill with Gov. Paul LePage’s signature.

If the governor does sign it, the bill will take effect immediately and allow spring runs of alewives through the fishway at the Grand Falls Dam near Princeton, in Washington County, and through much of the St. Croix watershed.

(The St. Croix is an important Maine river that serves as a border between the U.S. and Canada, winding through the edges of Downeast Maine, and emptying into the Atlantic.)

If you’ve wondered why the lobster industry in Maine (which, c’mon, is the only one that matters) has been reeling so much lately, one of the reasons has to do with alewives. This fish is a vital source of food for large predators, but it hasn’t been as easily available to them due to population declines and poor wildlife management decisions over the years. As a result, it is a strong possibility that there are fewer large predators in the Gulf of Maine, thus allowing a free-for-all explosion in the lobster population; the cockroaches of the sea aren’t being as vigorously hunted by non-humans as they once were. This ultimately drives prices down, hurting Maine fisherman. However, now that we can expect dramatic increases in alewife numbers, we should begin to see improvements in one of Maine’s key economic sectors.


Marty Soule is a good person

It always makes me feel good when I see people promoting smart ideas:

The March 13 letter to the editor warning about not supporting Planned Parenthood because it offers the Gardasil vaccine would have wide-reaching effects if the warning were followed.

One would need to avoid all pediatric and family medicine practices; all physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurses; the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The reason that health-care providers support the use of Gardasil and other vaccines is that they help to protect our children from terrible diseases. Immunizations given early in life allow our immune system to prepare so that it can protect us from disease later in life.

Gardasil helps to prevent cervical cancer. A friend of mine died of cervical cancer several years ago. I want to do what I can to protect others from that same fate.

Marty Soule


Well done, Marty.

Even real doctors can indulge in quackery

My local paper recently ran a piece about a doctor, Dustin Sulak, whose practice has exploded since Maine expanding its medical marijuana laws. While the man is a legitimate doctor – and while I support his efforts to responsibly prescribe marijuana to those who need it – I found a couple of parts of the article tremendously disappointing.

On the wall of Sulak’s examination room, next to his diplomas and state license, are framed certificates naming him a Reiki master and a clinical hypnotherapist.

An advocate for alternative medicine, Sulak gives his patients advice about healthier lifestyle choices, and many of them leave his office with bottles of supplements sold at the reception desk.

There is no evidence for the efficacy of Reiki and it rests on no scientific grounds in any regard. In fact, a major basis for it is the existence of Chakras. And guess what? They’re made up.

As far as hypnotherapy is concerned, I’m told by a psychology graduate student (who has recently received his master’s degree and is on his way to becoming a doctor) that in order for hypnosis to be practiced with any worth, it is generally necessary that the practitioner be a psychologist. I do not believe Dr. Sulak has those credentials, but I am not certain. At any rate, Dr. Sulak may be effective in his use of this practice. (See clarification here.)

Where the article says he is an advocate for alternative medicine and he recommends healthy lifestyle choices, it makes me rather queasy to see the paper trying to associate the two notions. First, if alternative medicine was medicine, we would just call it medicine. Second, any doctor will recommend healthy lifestyle choices. But it is unclear what that means in this context.

I’m also not a fan whatsoever of his anti-sunscreen position. Sunscreen ought to be used whenever long exposure to the sun is likely. That prevents cancer. End of story.

Also, he says this about cell phones:

I recommend using speaker phone, or a headset that has a plastic tube or a ferrite bead to prevent transmission of radiation into the ear. Please keep your cell phones away from children’s heads and pregnant mothers’ bellies!

For one of my cancer classes I recall the professor asking us to look into the evidence for a cell phone-cancer link and to let him know what we thought, how we felt about potential bans, etc. I had to say, the evidence was exceedingly weak. We have been using cell phones for a couple decades (we all remember Saved by the Bell), and we’ve been using them heavily for the past decade. Well over 4 billion people are on them daily. We have a load of studies. We have give ample opportunity for cancer to rear its tenacious head; no causative link exists. Let’s be done with this unwarranted fascination until there is some positive evidence to examine. Please.

Dr. Sulak also seems skeptical of vaccines, but he is far from explicit, only posting a few videos critical of the reaction to H1N1. The government’s response was generally appropriate (though we did end up throwing away a lot expired vaccines) and I hope to see something similar if we find ourselves on the brink of another potential – and preventable – epidemic. Besides, the anti-vax crowd has already caused enough deaths.

In summary, I’m rather skeptical of parts of Dr. Sulak’s practice, but virtually none of it could be called quackery. Unfortunately, the key word in that sentence is “virtually”. His use of Reiki is out-and-out, pure quackery. The ‘field’ rests on notions of palm healing, the proposition of fictional Chakras, and it has no physical basis. Reiki is not science and it has no place in real medicine.