Monday, June 29, 2009

Conservation Conundrums

Two apparently different topics dominate the headlines.

One one side you have the battle to protect the Whales.
Much loved and even glorified, they are at the center of a bitter feud that has led to the collapse of the latest Whaling Conference. Once nearly extinct, some species have miraculously come back from the brink, to the point that some Countries want to resume hunting them - and actually do, often in very unethical ways. The anti-whaling activists are dead set against it and the fight is turning increasingly violent.

On the other side you have the ongoing decline of the Tuna.
Everybody wants to eat them and stocks have been depleted to the point where many species are severely threatened and the Northern Bluefin Tuna is all but extinct. Once romanticized as some kind of heroic feat by intrepid fishermen, the killing is increasingly depicted as what it really is, the extermination of a species.

Whereas the Fisheries Agencies are finally trying to limit the catches, the fishermen have started to fight back as their existence is being threatened. Once again, violence is on the rise.

But really, these are just two examples of the same conundrum.
I've blogged about it a while ago when talking about the Shark fin industry: in order to protect the animals we love, we will have to accept that some of them are killed.

What I'm talking about is sustainable fishing.
Provided that the stocks are sufficiently plentiful (or after a moratorium, once we have allowed them to recover), we will have to accept a compromise: in exchange for agreeing to preserve the species, fishermen will have to be allowed to harvest sustainable quotas.

If that is true - and assuming that ethically speaking, all life has the same value regardless of personal preferences (and assumed cognitive faculties, etc.)
  • some species of Tuna can probably be harvested sustainably. Other species, like the Northern Bluefin should be fully protected until stocks replenish (tho from what I hear, it may already be too late)
  • some species of Shark can probably be harvested sustainably. Other species like the Hammerheads (please read the link) should be fully protected.
  • most probably, the same applies to the Cetaceans where the populations of some Dolphins and e.g. Minke Whales appear quite robust, whilst other species warrant full protection.
Do I like it? Hell, No!

But pragmatically speaking, it's probably the only way forward - as long as we cannot curb the demand . And when it comes to Sharks and Tuna, chances for that are very slim indeed.

The sooner we accept that, the sooner we will work towards achieving tangible and hopefully, long lasting results - which is ultimately the only thing that counts.

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