Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Shark Show!

Tony de Brum with Ratu Manoa in Suva - source: Fiji Sun.

I'm still inspired by today's Shark show.

Wame did a brilliant job.
Personable and charming as always but above all, incredibly well prepared, he knew exactly where he was going and interviewed his guests with intelligent, informed and relevant questions. Jill of course was her usual stellar self in eloquently developing a coherent, pragmatic, science- and fact-based case for the need to protect Sharks.

But who really did blow me away was Senator Tony deBrum.
The words that come to mind are Leadership and Vision - and this not only because he has been one of the key architects of the Marshall Islands Shark Sanctuary, but also because he appears to be a key player within the impressive PNA, and because of many of his other initiatives and some of his more private statements.
Very, very impressive indeed!

But of course I'm once again digressing.
DeBrum is uniquely positioned in being able to describe the effects of a strict and highly enforced Sharks Sanctuary which in essence amount to higher revenues from fishing licenses, higher revenues from the sale of Tuna and an enforcement regimen that is already more than paying for itself. In brief, smart conservation can be good business, too!
He also convincingly explained why a full, rather than a partial ban is the most efficient and effective solution, and certainly the cheapest to enforce.

The discussion then focused on the situation in Fiji.
I spare you the details about the minutiae because really, they are ultimately irrelevant. It really matters not who exactly catches exactly how many Sharks where, and for which reasons, and whether they are true bycatch or targeted, whether they are finned or not, and whether they end up as Shark fin soup or steaks or stir fry or in the lovo.
What matters is the fact that Fiji is exporting a huge amount of Shark fins and that various observers are reporting a sharp decline in Shark numbers in the wild.

The take-away message is ultimately this.
If there is one thing that defines the Pacific Islanders as a people, it is the Ocean.
For centuries it has been their home, shaped their culture, provided for their food, determined their daily life and in modern times, it has been the principal driver for the establishment of a vibrant tourism industry in many Pacific island countries. It is not by coincidence that the region is called Oceania, and its people are truly People of the Sea.

And now that Ocean is under attack.
The principal hazards are Anthropogenic Climate Change and Ocean Acidification; Overfishing; Habitat Degradation; Pollution.
Many are not caused locally but are the direct consequence of the reckless behavior of the most developed nations, and of Asia - and there, all we can aspire for is some form of smart adaptation that is especially crucial for the smallest and less elevated island states.
But reducing our own contribution to Habitat Degradation and Pollution is certainly possible!

And we can certainly address Overfishing!
Much of it is perpetrated by the same more developed nations that having exhausted their own resources, are now attacking Oceania with their distant water fleets. And let there be no doubt that despite of their rhetoric and development aid, they simply do not care but will grab what they can and then move on to greener pastures, and leave us to confront the long-term consequences.
To witness, keep an eye on the Cooks where a large Chinese fishing conglomerate is already embarking on test fishing after having treated several key fisheries officials to lavish junkets to China!
And, we must even start to manage the small scale fisheries as populations continue to grow - whilst the fishing grounds do not!
Yes it is difficult and fraught with political considerations - but this is our ocean and the obligation to nurture and protect it is ours alone!

And the Sharks?
They are the one crucial element that keeps a balance in the Ocean.
Contrary to the bony Fishes, they are essentially a non-renewable resource that needs to be protected now, as long as stocks in Oceania are still in relatively good shape when compared to the catastrophic situation elsewhere.
We simply cannot afford to procrastinate because once they are gone, our Ocean will not be healthy anymore.

And without a healthy Ocean, the islands will lose everything.
Their beauty, their food supply, their tourism and ultimately their unique culture and way of life. Look around - in some places, this is already happening.
Think about it.

Anyway, great show with great people!
Wame - can you please have it posted to YouTube - if you do, this will be seen by millions and FBC will be famous all over the world - and you, too! :)

No comments: