John Edgar Fitch (1918-1982): Malacologist

Robert Jan "Roy" van de Hoek
Ballona Institute
322 Culver Blvd., Suite 317
Playa del Rey, California 90293
(310) 821-9045
ŠNovember 19, 2010

John Edgar Fitch, (1918-1982) studied malacology, beginning in the 1940s and coauthored his first article on mollusca, namely the Pismo Clam, with the renowned marine biologist and malacologist, at Scripps, but formerly at Yale University, named Wesley Coe. Their classic article was published in 1950, now 60 years ago.

The insatiable curiosity of John Fitch, on clams, tied together beautifully in a snergistic manner with other specialities such as paleontology and archaeology and marine biology. And all these diverse interests of natural history allowed him to understand the fossil fish fauna of Playa del Rey, where the Greater Historic Ballona Lagoon Ecosystem is about to be destroyed as scientists conduct studies but take no stand on issues, thereby allowing ignorant policy makers and politicians to make mistakes further destroying nature and species about to disappear from Los Angeles and California, and not allowing more animals to be on the endangered species list. Los Angeles needs to make its own endangered species list for the public that is in the majority that wants nature saved in the City. Make no mistake that developers and real estate folks and investors are the minority of less than 1% of the population, yet they determine what happens in our City. Makes no sense to me, except how powerful money is to politicians and policy-decision makers. Why can't politicians listen to scientists such as John Fitch and myself, but ignore scientists that are out there with egos trying to make money.

There is much more to share with you in a future revision of this brief biography of a very fine naturalist and scientist of the Los Angeles County coast.

I recently discovered an interview that John Fitch had with a journalist of the San Luis Obispo Tribune newspaper, nearly a half century ago. He was interviewed about the Pismo Clam, and its plight, and precipitous slide toward extinction in California, due the popularity of this clam for food and for sheer recreation of capturing them. He wanted to conserve this species. Keep in mind that the word "Pismo" is a Chumash word, and this species occurs in Chumash Native American Indian sites and also occurs on the beaches of Santa Monica Bay, including Ballona Beach of Playa del Rey and Venice. His values of nature and wildlife to American society seem to fit the model of Ernest Callenbach on ecology. And I see clearly that John Fitch supported the wonderful science of ecology and natural history, including sustainability and ecosystems of planet Earth.