Friday, January 21, 2011

It's about the Money!

Graph by Oceana - click on it and read the report!

From Patric's post about the Seal hunt.

The end users of trade are the most vulnerable and usually have the most to lose.
The folks on the front lines, the guys with the Hakapiks on ice flows in Canada make nice media targets but at the end of the day have the least to lose, because they are starting with little to begin with. Same goes for the shark finners in Mozambique, or the folks in Latin America coming in with tons of sharks fin on second and third rate fishing boats, selling their fins for a dollar a pound.

Change can come, and ultimately conservation groups can be successful, but the days of staged multi-million dollar media extravaganzas on television, small protests with semi naked protesters, and the endless cycle of online petitions has to end.

Trade agreements between nations trump everything and right now very few NGO's have a seat at the table when it comes to changing trade agreements.

Let's never forget that (over)fishing, the principal immediate cause for the depletion of marine resources is big business providing for countless jobs and food security in many, many countries and thus, any decision in the matter will be political and not driven by ethics.
But there's also the following flip side - the resources allocated to conservation.

From my controversial post about the Doha debacle.

I however see the real chance for the civil societies in quiet, polite and persistent lobbying "on the ground", flanked by developing, financing and implementing economical and social solutions for the fishermen, country-wide education campaigns and above all, money and hardware for effective enforcement and policing.

Let me share two recent anecdotes.
I will try and keep this vague as my aim is not to embarrass anybody but to illustrate where I'm coming from and that there are real problems in a real world that make the task so much more difficult.


Mangroves for Fiji has been embraced by several Government Ministries.
We recently met with a very high ranking government official who sees this as an ideal conduit for motivating coastal communities to restore their vital Mangrove belts instead of cutting them down for the fire wood trade. It was decided that his staff would take us to several of those communities where we could pitch our initiative. Staff were assigned, dates were discussed.
And then the boss said, could you please assist us with fuel for our transport, as we have no more budget allocation for re-fueling our vehicles.


As you may suspect, I'm working on expanding Shark protection throughout Fiji.
This week, I took the representative of an important NGO to visit a crucial player within the Ministry of Fisheries. He's a scientist in his own right, passionate, knowledgeable, one hundred percent incorruptible and totally committed to the preservation of Fiji's natural resources. The portfolio of his team includes, inter alia, the re-drafting of Fiji's fisheries laws, the farming and restoration of Giant Clams, the protection of Napoleon Wrasse, Bumphead Parrotfish, Turtles, Whales and now Sharks, the establishment of MPAs, running awareness campaigns in local communities, the drafting of position papers for the countless meetings of the countless local and international fisheries agencies, and many many more.
He is the go-to man and without his support, nothing will ever get done.

The meeting was excellent.
We agreed that we would continue the conversation via e-mail and meet at a later stage. The official gave us a gmail address and when I inquired, he explained that the government server was down and that anyway, he did not dispose of a desktop computer and could not access the internet from his office. Whenever he wanted to go online, he had to leave the office and download his mail in the next internet café.

That's where the rubber hits the road!
Again, this is not to embarrass anybody - it is merely to show the real situation on the ground. It is great to make a lot of noise and our collective efforts may indeed succeed in convincing the powers that be to take action, at least on paper. But those victories are merely the first step and to be perfectly clear, the job is not done if we stop there!
If the people tasked with implementing the decisions by the bigwigs are left without the necessary resources, those regulations will forever remain toothless and the killing will continue.

In the end, it's all about the money.
It's also about prioritizing our resources and directing them where they will have the biggest effect. And in view of the plethora of NGOs that are increasingly fragmented and thus underfunded, those resources need to be pooled.

Yes I know I'm repeating myself!

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