Archive for May, 2014

Canadian Government Fails Again

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

For the past six years delegates from 98 countries have hammered away at a document with the catchy title ‘Voluntary Guidelines on Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries’. Sponsored by the FAO, it is in its final draft, heading toward presentation to the FAO Fisheries Committee next month.

Coastal fishing communities and fisheries, like this one in Vietnam,  are particularly vulnerable in Asia and Africa (worldfishcenter.org)

Coastal fishing communities and fisheries, like this one in Vietnam, are particularly vulnerable in Asia and Africa (worldfishcenter.org)

Canadian delegates have participated throughout, helping to create what is surely one of the more idealistic and humane documents of international cooperation. Now, suddenly, Canada has withdrawn its support for the document, jeopardizing its future.

Ninety percent of fisheries are small-boat, family-owned operations, landing about 2/3 of all fish caught, and providing protein for billions of people. However, over the past decades, nations have increasingly supported industrial fishing and aquaculture at the expense of small-scale fisheries.

Small-scale fisheries need top down support to survive in the presence of the heavily subsidized large-scale fisheries (jenniferjacquet.com)

Small-scale fisheries need top down support to survive in the presence of the heavily subsidized large-scale fisheries (jenniferjacquet.com)

The Guidelines try to rectify this imbalance. They focus on human rights, cultural concerns, and Indigenous rights, and they emphasize the need for gender equity and equality. They invoke the need for the precautionary approach, ecosystem-based management, community-based co-management, and the rule of law. They emphasize that priority should be given to small-scale fisheries communities, and that with recognition of such tenure rights come responsibilities.

Women do much of the work in small-scale fisheries once the fish have been landed. Their role needs to be clearly recognized. (toobigtoignore.net)

Women do much of the work in small-scale fisheries once the fish have been landed. Their role needs to be clearly recognized. (toobigtoignore.net)

They also recognize that the real world has become one too often characterized by poverty, violence, corruption, crime, and economic abuse of women, and that coastal communities also face the accumulating stresses of climate change, pollution, coastal erosion, and destruction of coastal habitats.

That is what makes this document so valuable to the world. It is a model of what could be, and of what should be. It is, in the face of all that is wrong and threatening, a defense of the sustainability of small-scale fisheries and fishing communities, a defense of the poor and the marginalized, and a defense of women’s rights.

It is worth reading.

Even in Canada there are many fishing communities that are small, vulnerable, and in need of support (smallscales.ca0

Even in Canada there are many fishing communities that are small, vulnerable, and in need of support (smallscales.ca0

So what now, at the last minute, is the problem that Canada’s Harper Government has with the document? It seems that the most recent draft includes wording, proposed by Mauritania, that calls for the protection of fishermen “in situations of occupation“. The Harper Government apparently views this is as a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli intrusion, and Harper’s pro-Israeli political stance trumps any support he might have for improving global human rights and sustaining small-scale fisheries and communities.

In recent years the Harper Government has made clear its contempt for the UN, for other global agreements such as on fire arms and climate change, and within Canada for environmental protection and even for democratic processes. But this one is really beyond the pale.

The Canadian delegates are of course deeply embarrassed, and hope for a resolution. A number of Canadian fisheries scientists have written a concerned ‘Open Letter to the Government’. But we in Canada need a bigger solution. We need a government that recognizes we are part of a troubled world beset by human injustice and environmental threats. We need a government that believes in social justice and sustainability.

Canada should be a model to the world, not a pariah.

We need a new government, as soon as possible.

Military Dolphins

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Two coastal cities, San Diego and Sevastopol, one in California, the other on the Crimean coast in what was the Soviet Union and then the Ukraine and now is Russia. In each, the military has trained dolphins to help fight wars.

The dolphin pens near San Diego Naval Base (seattletimes.com)

The dolphin pens near San Diego Naval Base (seattletimes.com)

You may remember hearing about the San Diego unit long ago in the ’60s. The training there and in Sevastopol never stopped, though it was winding down in the Ukraine until last month when Russia got it back.

The Soviet, then the Ukrainian, and now the Russian  navy have trained dolphins at Sevastopol (vacationstogo.com)

The Soviet, then the Ukrainian, and now the Russian
navy have trained dolphins at Sevastopol (vacationstogo.com)

Trained in San Diego, bottlenose dolphins helped the US military in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf Wars. Those trained in Sevastopol – well, we don’t know if or when they were used.

Of course it is remains difficult to know what is true, but for whatever it means, the New York Times, The Wire and Izvestia at least agree on what is now happening.

It appears the two groups of dolphins may, if not meet, at least soon share the same piece of ocean for a while. The US is bringing some to the Black Sea for ‘NATO exercises’. The Sevastopol contingent, a couple of months ago headed for retirement or more likely continued labor in aquarium shows, will get renewed training by the Russian navy in the same Sea.

Dolphin in training, Sevastopol (rt.com)

Dolphin in training, Sevastopol (rt.com)

What on Earth are we doing?

We don’t know much about most species of dolphins, but we know quite a lot about bottlenose. We know they are intelligent, curious, social, and sexually very active. And we know they are very alien, relative to ourselves, in how they relate to each other, how they communicate, what they communicate, how and if they think, what and if they think of us, and what and how they feel.

Despite some heart warming stories of how they protect swimmers, they are not our friends and we are not theirs, no matter how much some of us really want them to be.

We have used animals, mainly horses, to help us in warfare for a long time. Dolphins are different.

We send them off as if they were independent parts of our military teams to set explosives, clear mines, and do possibly other nefarious things that are very hard to prove. They are trained to do stuff surreptitiously that our own divers are not strong or swift or crazy enough to do.

Another one in training in San Diego (thewire.com)

Another one in training in San Diego (thewire.com)

This really should stop. We can kill each other perfectly well and efficiently without making dolphins do it for us. We also can’t just toss them back into the wild when they’re no longer needed. Perhaps they don’t fare much worse than many of our human war veterans, but they are not us. They simply shouldn’t be involved.

Our militaries rationalize the situation by saying the dolphins live long as captives and appear to be happy, but surely we know all too well how absurd those words really are.

Instead, we need to leave them alone, and let them live their own lives in whatever ways they naturally do. They have plenty to cope with in our deteriorating ocean ecosystems without having to endure slavery.