Sunday, February 13, 2011

Conservation - Asia Bashing?

Click for detail.

Think the badge will really impact the international Shark fin trade?
The bad news: think again! The good news: at least it was produced by PangeaSeed, a Japanese (as opposed to Western) Shark conservation org!

Which brings me straight over to this most excellent post by Patric.
Indeed, who are we to tell the Asians what to eat, or how to manage their very own resources - the more as we have, and continue to amply prove how bad we are at doing the same in our own back yard! Baltic Sea anybody? Mediterranean? Bears, Wolves, Otters, Lynxes, let alone Wisent in Western Europe? Virgin forests in the US and Europe? And the list goes on and on and on and on!
Here's a small reminder of what we have done to our oceans!

But I'm digressing as usual.
The fact is that in all those conservation initiatives, terrestrial and marine, it always boils down to the same basic points:
  • Sustainability not Prohibition
  • Legislation but also Enforcement - flanked by Mitigation and Education
  • our absolute willingness not to demonize the "other" side, but to engage in Dialogue and to accept pragmatic Compromises instead
Is that so difficult to comprehend?

When it comes to Asia in particular.
Yes, the bulk of the demand for many endangered species originates there - but the perpetrators are others and the ecological damage happens elsewhere!
Please re-read this with respect to the Northern Bluefin! And when it comes to Sharks, if you haven't already, check out this report by TRAFFIC and Pew about who are the biggest killers of Sharks!

And then, there's this - and yes I will never stop repeating myself!
You gotta differentiate between markets that are demand limited and those that are supply limited.

The poster child for the former is whaling.
The demand for Whale meat by the Japanese and Korean consumers is already low, and dwindling. With that in mind, there really is no commercial justification for sending those expensive fleets to Antarctica, nor is there really any remaining strong commercial incentive for killing those Dolphins in Taji. Instead of the strident and uncompromising activism that many, even within the most passionate conservation circles define as unacceptable eco-terrorism and that has led to a nationalistic counter push by the Japanese authorities, the most promising strategy is to target the last remaining demand - whilst at the same time, appeasing the Japanese by granting them a face saving official quota of non-endangered Whales like Minkes and yes, Dolphins.
In that regard, I was totally impressed when I read this statement by Ady Gil of ex Sea Shepherd affiliation

Ecorazzi: Can you tell us a bit more about what you’re doing in Taiji?
The reports I’ve read is that your intent on “building bridges”. Many have asked how that might be different as opposed to what SS has done there over the last several months.

Ady Gil: The only way to make a change in Japan is to have the Japanese people want a change. We can not come here to their country and TELL them what to do. As horrible as the dolphin hunt is, and I have seen it with my own eyes, it is what they do. No different than factory farming in the US. If there was a culture of “Cow Loving”, if we thought that cows are “cute”, if cows played with balls and hoops, we would feel the same about cow slaughter.

The fact is that the majority of the people in Japan love dolphins. Tangalooma in Australia offers its guests a better way to interact with dolphins, other people only get to see them in aquariums. Japan has 100 of the 500 aquariums world wide, (data that I got from an official person in Japan).

We have posted statistics about Taiji. Fisheries are a declining business here.
It just went down from about 12% to about 8%, in 5 short years, of total business revenue in the city. Building the bridges will possibly open their eyes to use the treasure that they have, hundreds of dolphins in the oceans, to bring people here, to watch and swim with dolphins, and revive the economy in Taiji.

Amazing - and totally agree that this is the way forward!

Not so when it comes to supply limited markets!
Examples? Shark fins, Tuna but also, Tigers, Bear gall bladders and especially, Elephant Ivory!
I've added the latter three as perfect examples of how useless it is to try and address the problem by trying to curb the demand by re-educating the consumers. The fight for Tigers and Elephants is among the oldest of conservation initiatives, with all species listed under CITES I - and yet and despite a plethora of initiatives, celebrity endorsements and petitions, and even public condemnation by China itself, Asian demand continues to drive the species to the brink of extinction.

Because to be successful, one would have to re-educate hundreds of millions (!!!!) of consumers!
Please re-visit this and watch the following video posted by Patric: THIS is the scope of what we're up against when it comes to Sharks - do you really think that a few hundred posters, those celebrity endorsements and those "stop finning" initiatives will make a difference?
Why do some continue to insist on those very same failed strategies?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

The solution, as practiced today in terrestrial conservation?
Protect the animals where they are being hunted - along with, yes you guessed it, mitigation (like that of compensating would be poachers, establishing tourism ventures that provide for jobs, etc) and education!
Sound familiar?

Yes, that too is gonna be bloody hard!
The trade in endangered species, whether legal or not, is highly lucrative and there will always be obstacles, push backs and setbacks.
But that's precisely why I so strongly believe that we need to pool and prioritize ALL of our resources and focus ALL of our energies on those local initiatives - and that at the same time, we need to stop squandering them elsewhere!

Please, give it some serious thought - it really is the only way forward.

PS Richard's take here: always the elder statesman!

1 comment:

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Have to agree with Ady Gil, he paid a high price for his tangle with SSCS, but I think his brand of realism is the way forward.

If he keeps talking that talk and walking that walk I may become a true fan.