Friday, March 02, 2012

Whale Shark Whisperers?

Intrigued about the title?

There just is no substitute for good old fashion brain power and common sense.
Case in point, this excellent post by Mark which also contains the reference to the title.
And I cite - emphasis is mine.

The real answer to the overall problem lies in community derived sustainability through fisheries management where the community is the stakeholder, and where eco-tourism forms a part (small or large, depending on the circumstances) of that plan.

To cut to the chase, far too many people have been catching far too many fish for far too long; and for far too long, we have abused the oceans as garbage dumps and destroyed the coastal habitats. And now we've reached the point where is has become so bad that everybody is realizing that this cannot continue.
Old fishermen remember the good old days and wonder where all the big fish have gone; old divers like me remember the times where you would lose your buddy amid the fishes whereas now, even the most remote locations are but a shadow of what they used to be; and the fishing industry and government officials despair over ever decreasing catches and the hardship this generates.

We actually spend an inordinate amount of time talking to the various stakeholders from the authorities, NGOs and various industry representatives all the way to the simple artisanal fishermen - and all equally bemoan the rapid and accelerating decline.

The good news is that at least here in Fiji, I am detecting signs of progress.
When it comes to the big commercial fishing interests, there is certainly dialogue and it would be nice if this would finally result in everybody working hand in hand. Ultimately, fishing sustainably is the only viable strategy if the industry wants to survive in the long term, meaning that the classical cat-and-mouse games whereby the fleets over-fish until the authorities curtail them need be replaced by genuine cooperation in the best long term interest of all the stakeholders. Obviously easier said than done but I'm certainly seeing steps in the right direction, this owing to good leadership on all sides but also, to the stomping out of corruption, something this particular government has really excelled in.
Going forward, I would like to see a stronger application of the precautionary principle, meaning that the industry itself would be invited to seek independent certification and that it would thus be them, not the cash- and resource-strapped authorities that would have to invest the necessary resources in order to make the case of why a particular fishery is sustainable.
Again, easier said than done - but certainly feasible assuming that everybody wants to preserve the sector for the future.

It is obviously much more difficult when it comes to the subsistence sector.
If 100 years ago, one village may have numbered 50 people, now that same village may number 400 - but of course, the qoliqoli is still of the same size and may even have been degraded by pollution and ever more frequent bleaching events etc., something that is particularly prevalent in Viti Levu.
Yes once again it is about too many people and about the need to manage limited, and in this particular case, dwindling resources.

Everywhere in developing countries, this is a monumental challenge and so far, the track record everywhere has been equally dismal.
These are not your archetypical greedy bad guys (again, bravo Rick!), these are scores upon scores of perfectly ordinary and often desperately poor people that are trying to eke out a meager living by mining the oceans for protein, with devastating consequences for biodiversity and ultimately, for themselves. Effecting change here is incredibly difficult, the more as often, poor education and archaic and rigid social structures and beliefs are greatly compounding the problem.

As I said, it's exactly the same as with the other marine life, with the one difference that several of them are particularly important for preserving the ecological integrity of their habitats, and that their demise will amplify the negative consequences. Once again, the good news is that Mark's pro shark Zeitgeist (nice formulation!) is certainly a fact, and that there is much we the shark conservationists can do, at every level - including shark tourism where i however fully agree with Mark.

But please, sans the hyperbole and the nonsense.
This also includes abandoning the continued Asia bashing and condemning the racist undertones, and I must commend Patric on this courageous post. Yes shark fishing is still principally driven by the Asian demand for shark fins - but the killing and selling is perpetrated by others very much including us, and when I check out the recipe, I also see no requirement whatsoever that the Sharks must be finned! And let us not forget the thriving shark meat markets in places like the UK, Germany and Australia!
The anti-Asian racism must stop - and leaders, show leadership!

Anyway, as always, just a couple of thoughts.
Have a great weekend!

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