Return to the archive index.
The second post today. Just want to point your attention to the plight of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki. These two Japanese men are being held without charge by the Japanese government. The full story can be found elsewhere, but basically they made the mistake of exposing clear evidence of wide-scale corruption at the heart of the Japanese Southern Ocean "scientific whaling programme".
Instead of going for the real culprits the public prosecutor decided to publicly criminalize the messengers. A very unwelcome & nasty thing to do in a democracy.
An interesting article appeared on the overfishing.org news aggregator. It discusses how Tuesday European Union ministers agreed to tighten inspections on illegal fishing in EU waters and impose "stiff" fines on lawbreakers. Starting in 2010 EU vessels or any non-EU vessel (third countries) trying to land a catch at an EU port will be hit with a maximum fine of five times the market value of the catch. For a repeat offence, that fine is set at eight times the value. This is irrespective of where they carry out their fishing.
It's to be seen if this works as a deterrent. The fines are not that high while potential profits are sky-high. More effort put into regulating and inspections never hurts though. But I hope it won't become a "bluewash" excuse for not putting in place better management systems and quotas based on scientific recommendations.
The Reuters article can be found on theInternational Herald Tribune website.
Here are two graphs I put together in early 2007. Not much has changed.
Info from both graphs should be taken as an indicator (especially the first graph) and should, of course, be used in proper context... Posted per request by the lovely Dalia, hope they're useful :)
Mediterranean Bluefin tuna will be extinct in a decade. It's undeniable. Populations still around will be hunted for as if made of solid gold with diamonds on top.
Today's reactions on the closure of the fisheries for the remainder of 2008 are the main reason for my negativity. This closure is nothing extraordinary, it's what happens every year after the previously agreed quotas have been filled. These quotas have been agreed on by the various governments involved after the fisheries scientists have given their direct-to-trash opinion (e.g. quotas need to be minimal in order to have any Bluefin tuna at all in a decade's time. A statement always overruled by political games).
So today the quotas were "declared" full, every country got its generous share and should be full of shame of themselves already for helping the Northern Bluefin tuna closer to extinction. The commission made a statement which comes down to boats from Greece, France, Italy, Cyprus and Malta being banned from fishing bluefin tuna from June 16 while purse seiners from Spain will not be able to cast their nets from June 23. They stated "The closure of the purse seine fishery is necessary to protect this fragile resource, and ensure the recovery of the stock". It might be worthwhile here to mention the countries involved hugely and intentionally overfished their quotas in 2007.
This is of course a glorious day for fishermen, it means that over the past months they managed to land about 550 tonnes a day. Good money. Governments should be happy as well; with the ever increasing fuel prices it's a good thing the planned catch is already in and fuel subsidies aren't needed. Saves money, huh?
But no. Contrary to all agreements, future state of my bloody planet and surely without caring about the ethics in this the French and Italian fisheries ministers went in full force, feet first.
Italian Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia
"I don't agree with this decision because it is unjustified and because it fails to take full account of the economic and social impact it will have on a sector that is already in crisis". Pardon me? Unjustified? Has Mark Kurlansky's "Cod -The Fish that Changed the World" been translated to English? In that case I'll buy a copy for Mr. Zaia. It might be interesting for him to read the economic and social effects a fully depleted fish source has..
French Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Michel Barnier
"I deplore this decision, made without having taken account of technical factors and catch figures", and he asked for "the urgent organisation of a meeting of experts from the EU executive commission to provide useful data on bluefin tuna catches by purse seiners in the countries concerned". No account taken of technical factors like, just fantasizing, the actual state of the stocks? Kinda like the way the original quota was set? Basically he's looking for a loophole to fish as much as he wants completely in contrary to prior agreements. Right Mr. Barnier?
After these comments and actions I simply don't believe chance will come fast enough. Governments are working against it with impressive effort. Quotas for the next five years will be set way to high again. IUU fishing will keep taking it's chunk as well, and when all is over the Mediterranean fisheries ministers will just subsidize some more helicopters in order to find that highly priced last Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna.
In this post I've collected the lol-oshunz-conservashun images created up to now.
Some All are absolutely awesome, making me laugh out loud (and causing my cat to look at me like, well,. like in the image below). Don't forget to check out the websites these awesome lolzimage creatzorss opzirat from!
(read the full article)
This would be the headline if Greenpeace, WWF or the Environmental Investigating Agency staged violent riots in Brussels. Truth is that these NGOs have not been doing so. Fishermen however have. And the media doesn't seem to be too snappy on getting that new image of the modern fisherman out, with for example Agency France Press using the extremely neutral "European fishermen protest in Brussels" to illustrate an article on rioting. Lately we've seen a growing tension among European fishermen. The aggressive protests of today (resulting in a fair bit of property damage) are just the latest examples of what seems to be a trend towards confrontational actions.
The main argument of the fishermen is that current fuel prices are the basis of their problems. And there's no denial: if they want to keep running business as usual the price of fuel is a problem for many. However, I strongly believe that after opportunistically ignoring all economic and environmental alarms bells for decades this should not be a reason for our governments to simply give -as subsidy, tax incentives or whatever- them money incentives. Mainly because it will just fast-forward the problem. Fast-forwarding so the next generation of politicians can deal with an even bigger problem... The real problem is not today's high fuel prices. The main problem is an outdated industry model.
Like every singly other fleet the European one has a grand overcapacity. With half the ships and fishermen we could catch a similar amount of fish and significantly lower the amount of fuel used. This is not something new at all. Fishermen have know this for years, and everyone who has build a ship in the past decade knew it would be launched in a difficult market. Member states knew this as well, yet still decided to subsidize this shipbuilding. Big shame to opportunistic populist politicians. The burden should be fully with the fishermen themselves though; in private enterprise you should be lucky to get some subsidy, not base your business upon it and ask for even more in poor times after you have profited in good times. And good times the fishing industry has had for decades; even today many fishermen have above average incomes.
Energy intensive fishing methods
North Sea bottom trawling anyone? Using four litres of a oil just to haul one kilo of fish aboard. Over the past years -and after mocking / blocking all attempts before- some fisherman are finally getting the message and have started looking for energy efficient fishing methods / gear. Electric pulse fishing is one of these new methods. North Sea bottom trawling is just one of the examples.
The price of fish
Like everything else fish is a commodity. Yet even though we have TACs and quotas the price of fish all along the supply chain is artificially low. E.g. it does not reflect the real costs. This is something not necessarily caused at the bottom of the supply chain (e.g. the fishermen) but it definitely fuels their problem. And here we arrive at the base of the problem. If fishermen don't even earn enough money to pay their fuel bills their product is obviously worth more than they now get for it at the auctions. Thus they should ask more for their fish from the market, not ask for subsidies paid by the European taxpayer. If no-one wants to give you more it is time to realise your business model is outdated.
While I do feel sorry for any individual who loses his job or part of his income I do welcome Europe's fishermen to the real world; one of true private enterprise. (they used to be proud of this, the only truly free man being a Fisherman..) For decades the industry has been profiting from the huge subsidies and advantages given by member states. In fact much of it still does. In return all they had to do was to provide us with that Fisherman's Friend image of the lonely fisherman out at night, battling the stormy sea. No one ever asked them to actually pay something for the right to gain profit from our common fish resources, to fish in what could in many ways be considered a highly unsustainable free for all, owned by all.
I have no problems with the practise of commercial fishing, mari-culture, seaweed harvesting and whatever else one can think of. In fact I'm eating a spicy stew -slightly overcooked- with Dutch mussels right now. I do however have big problems with the fishing industry in its current state; an industry formed on the basis of a big, bigger, best. An industry highly skilled in ignoring the problems it is facing right up to the moment it starts to affect profits.
Maybe this is the time to start working on some real changes for once? A proper restructuring of the fleets, science based TACs, sustainable stewardship, more control over illegal activities and, eventually, more realistic prices for fish.