Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Greedy evil Fishermen?

From the daily flood of images.

Malaita, Solomon Islands.
Chelsea Harris These ppl should be slaughtered the same way they are slaughtering our precious animals

Tamil Nadu, India

Inhambane, Mozambique.
Alberto Ruben Paredes Guerra Damn motherfucker...!!! I wanna kill him..!!

Just great isn't it - the images and the comments!
The cold fact is that for those local fishermen, those animals are nothing but a resource. The cold fact is that unless those fishermen are provided with alternatives and/or unless those resources are being protected or at least properly managed, the indiscriminate killing will continue.

And the frothy comments by the Facebook activists?
You may want to read Cool Hall Head's comment at the end of this op ed about the Canadian seal hunt and you may also want to read this piece about hypocrisy
Indeed, a class of sly racism colours these discussions! And it's not only the hypocrisy and the racism - the bloody noise and abject ignorance of both global and local circumstances is not only achieving nothing, it is actually only making things even worse! Case in point: read this surprising post on Rick Barry's EII blog - kudos!
As Chuck puts it in his inaugural post on SFS,  
sharks (are) finally closing in on the kind of conservation attention that has previously belonged almost exclusively to marine mammals....As a result, even conservation-minded fishermen feel like they have to oppose environmentalists, which just keeps the whole unfortunate cycle of opposition going. 
Indeed: welcome to the Dolphinization!

As always, they are no magic global recipes but one has to consider the individual local circumstances instead!

The Solomon Island situation is extremely complicated.
It touches on a whole gamut of issues, among which local culture and tradition, sustainability vs economical progress but also pure and simple greed and corruption at the village level, something we here know all too well from years of enacting conservation at the grass roots level.
It also touches on whether one should pay for conservation whereby everything unravels once the money stops flowing, or whether one should instead promote sustainable long-term conservation projects that pay for themselves, like we've done here
That's where the EII has ultimately failed as I see no indication of them having set up any viable long-term alternative, foremost of which the establishment of a local dolphin watching venture that could have provided for sustainable jobs and income. And their Dolphin-safe Tuna initiative? Re-read these posts!

And talking of which.
Does anybody still believe that what is happening in Oslob is Eco-terrorism?
Read this latest article!

The Indian example?
Quite obviously the Shark was initially merely accidental bycatch. Later ignorance, greed and cheating on the part of the fisherman concurred with a lackadaisical attitude by the competent authorities. Chances for the imposition of the Rs 25,000.00 fine so that subsequent fishermen will be deterred? Chances that these incidences will completely stop?

Please re-read this and if you got the time, watch those videos and also the excellent Shiver - that's the backdrop and there are no easy solutions. Adam Baugh who has taken those horrific pictures knows it and has posted this insightful comment - kudos! 
In the end, it will come down to the commitment of the people on the ground and to whether the Mozambican government can be swayed into enacting adequate Shark management measures - and the way I see it (tho granted, I probably lack adequate insight), chances for the latter are slim indeed!

So what about Chuck's post.
I get and concur with the gist that demonizing fishermen is largely unfair and counterproductive - and yes, when conservationists work with fishermen, the results can be impressive indeed! 
At the same time, as somebody who has traveled extensively throughout the developing world and now lives and tries to enact marine conservation in a developing country, I'm frankly profoundly irritated by the continued apparent total lack of understanding by the SFS folks of the actual circumstances in those countries!

Yes the US (!) fishermen may be largely law abiding citizen.
But this only because they are being curtailed by gigatons of resources invested by NOAA and the NMFS! 
The truth is that when those very same people were not being regulated, they have done what all fishermen will ultimately do: they have caught whatever they could get their hands on and overfished recklessly to the point where some of them have fished themselves into extinction! That does not make them evil - it just makes them fishermen, perfectly respectable ordinary people pursuing their profession and trying to make a living,  tragedy of the commons, cheating and all!

Yes in theory, good sustainable management is better than prohibition.
But in practice, those developing countries do not dispose of the required resources and often also of the political will for adequate implementation, monitoring, enforcement and prosecution! Case in point: this post about Indonesia or this latest statement by a Fijian fisheries official. What does work are MPAs - small and big all the way to sanctuaries!
So for us guys trying to achieve what is possible given the specific circumstances on the ground, those continued statements on a science blog, let alone the sniping in the science journals are at least as unhelpful and irritating as the idiotic clamoring by the sharktivists that those statements are obviously aiming to counteract - the more so as the people making them are supposedly those with the superior brain power!
Love you guys - but you really gotta start thinking about the consequences of what you say!

And one last comment.
Beware of the romantic image of the noble savages pursuing artisanal fishing! 
That may have been sustainable a long time ago, when there were only a few people fishing with primitive means - but now those people are too many, the techniques have been modernized (do outboard engines and nylon gillnets still match the definition?) and above all, the cash economy has created a legion of small commercial as opposed to subsistence fishermen that catch way more than they need for their own consumption.
What has already happened in Asia where millions of small-scale fishermen have strip-mined the oceans and literally eaten the big Fishes into local extinction is starting to happen everywhere, with devastating consequences for biodiversity and ultimately, for those very coastal communities that depend on it.

Those small fishermen, too, are not evil
They are just trying to survive, often by whatever means they can find and apparently quite oblivious of the long-term damage (example here) they cause - or maybe they are just pretending to be oblivious and guess what, we'll never really know!
Obviously one of the solutions is awareness and education  - but let there be no doubt that these fisheries require the same degree of management and enforcement as the bigger commercial ones!

Like I said: less clamoring and dogma, more practical and pragmatic solutions for real and complex issues in a real and complex world!

PS Read his post before you go off on your next racist Facebook Rant about how, "brown and yellow people and raping the oceans"...they are not for the most part, what they are doing is surviving, and not in the twice-a-day Skinny Latte manner of Julie from Sea Shepherd (oh how she suffers for sharks), but in the classic, "don't have two dimes to rub together and my folks need to eat," sense.


OfficetoOcean said...

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

I just hope people listen.

Tropical Selkie said...

Great blog, again. And I agree 95% with a few exceptions...most of which are not worth discussing publicly as it would only fuel the drama; rather, as you say, better to look at the big picture and seek practical solutions based on sound science (by scientists and citizen scientists) and policy (crafted by professional advocates and conservationists). However, I do want to defend some minor cyber-venting. When an animal, especially a charismatic mega-fauana like a white shark, is killed the first reaction is often emotional and venting those emotions via social media comments is generally harmless (unless it is overtly racist). I agree that whole blogs focusing on drama may not be helpful but a few minor comments here and there may be just a steam vent on the pressure-cooker of rabid on-line activists. Let them long as they don't interfere with the productive work of actually creating positive change. For that reason, I try, generally to avoid responding to such 'comments'. But as you know, I've been rabid myself when widely-read bloggers have made public statements that are false and hurtful to the cause of conservation (present author excluded). I might stop that too....also starting to feel like a waste of time/energy.

Megalobomb said...

Don't stop sister! You'd be surprised who's reading and agreeing but for whatever "risks" do not want to appear in the conversation.

Great post, btw. :)