New Zealand to help Tonga develop a well-managed & sustainable deepwater line fishery

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I just saw a wee snippet in Dive New Zealand:

The $2.7m NZ government-funded project draws expertise from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), the South Pacific community, Tonga’s government and fishing industry. The aim is to develop a well-managed, sustainable line fishery for deepwater fish in Tonga’s Exclusive Economic Zone. 

This Tongan aid programme was first announced last month by NIWA in a press release:

New Zealand helps Tongan deepwater fisheries development

A programme to help Tonga maximise the economic benefits of commercial fishing has been launched in the country’s capital, Nuku’alofa.

Coinciding with a visit to Tonga by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, the $2.7m NZ government-funded project draws together expertise from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), the Secretariat for the Pacific Community, Tonga’s government and fishing industry.

The aim is to develop a well-managed, sustainable line fishery for deepwater fish in Tonga’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Project leader and NIWA fisheries scientist Dr Stuart Hanchet said the project was funded by the NZ Aid Partnership Programme and partners will explore ways to maximise economic returns and develop new market opportunities.

“Biological sustainability and improved management are also key objectives,” Dr Hanchet said.

The project builds on the recently approved Tongan Deepwater Fisheries Management Plan by providing key information to support implementation of the plan.

Sustainable development in Tonga

The Agenda 21 website provides a good overview on sustainable development in Tonga:

The Agenda 21 was adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Conference recommended that States consider preparing national reports and communicating the information therein to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) including, activities they undertake to implement Agenda 21, the obstacles and challenges they confront, and other environment and development issues they find relevant.

The Johannesburg Summit 2002 (the World Summit on Sustainable Development) organised by UN Commission on Sustainable Development focused on strategies for meeting challenges that best humanity going forward, including improving people’s lives and conserving our natural resources in a world that is growing in population, with ever-increasing demands for food, water, shelter, sanitation, energy, health services and economic security.

Also see: NZ announces “sustainable” development assistance for Tonga

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South Koreans push back on Accusation that the Korean IUU Fishing Korean Fleet is essentially Government Subsidised

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Atuna reported  that the South Korean government, Dongwon Industries, and other tuna fisheries companies are under fire for failing to take pre-emptive steps to prevent the European Union (EU) preliminary listing of Korea as a country engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF) (see Gov’t Subsidized IUU Fishing By Korean Fleet?). On 26 November 2013, the European Commission handed South Korea a formal warning for failure to keep up with its international obligation to fight IUUF (see GFBF post: J’accuse!! eNGOs point finger pointed squarely at South Korea as the main IUU tuna fishing nation in African waters on the back of EU accusations).

IUU Fishing vessel from Gabon. Photo by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Source: http://denstormerpresents.com/2013/01/16/top-10-countries-involved-in-illegal-unreported-and-unregulated-fishing/

IUU Fishing vessel from Gabon. Photo by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Source: http://denstormerpresents.com/2013/01/16/top-10-countries-involved-in-illegal-unreported-and-unregulated-fishing/

Though the preliminary listing by the EU will not, at this stage, entail any measures affecting seafood trade, if Korea is designated as a full IUU fishing nation, all fish and fish products caught or manufactured by Korean fleets and their owner companies will be precluded from entering the EU market.

According to Atuna this warning came as a “shock to Korea, which prides itself as being a fishing powerhouse with 344 registered vessels in 2012.” Yet the article implies that this shock cannot be all that ‘unexpected’, noting that since 2010:

[T]he E.U. urged the Korean government to actively engage in stopping illegal fishing, after a number of international environmental organizations disclosed fishing illegalities by Korean ships. Rumors that the E.U. could issue a warning to the country were common place.”

The South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries claimed that it was talking with the E.U. and Korea would not likely face any penalties. I wrote earlier in this blog that in furtherance of this; South Korea amended their Water Fisheries Act:

For South Korea the possibility of being blacklisted by the EU is not only embarrassing; it could have real economic impact. Atuna points out, that in July (2013), the Korean National Assembly amended its Water Fisheries Act to help curb illegal fishing. One of the amendments includes an increase in penalties for illegal fishing from a fine of USD 5,000, to a significant maximum fine of three times the value of the fish caught.”

But According to Atuna the EU reportedly did not accept the legislative amendment, maintaining that “the revision lacks control over IUUF.”

In the face of the ‘shock’ as a consequence of being stigmatized as an IUUF nation, the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, in addition to the legislative amendment, instead of fortifying compliance measures, recently suspended the introduction of a compulsory Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), which tracks a fishing vessel’s whereabouts, until July next year. Interestingly China has already made VMS compulsory. It is said that this suspension of compulsory VMS is one of the justifications for the preliminary IUU blacklisting.

The Korean Ministry claimed that enforcing the system which will cost millions of won for each vessel could be a financial burden to companies. However Atuna notes that according to a fishing industry insider, who asked for anonymity, it may be burdensome for some small companies, but it was not a big deal for large companies such as Dongwon, Korea’s largest canned tuna provider.

South Korea’s fishing industry receives yearly a high amount of government subsidies, of which also tuna fishing companies are profiting, some of them directly or indirectly being associated with IUU fishing. Park Ji Hyun of Greenpeace added that “large companies (like Dongwon and Sajo Industries) take about 80 percent of the ministry’s subsidies to the fishing industry amounting to 300 billion won a year.”

FV Oyang 70-fishing-boat

South Korean Fishing Vessel. FV Oyang 70

Korea criticizes EU IUU ‘double standard’

According to Seafood Source the EU is facing a backlash from Korean fishermen’s organizations over its 26 November decision to preliminarily add the country to its illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF) list. The Korea Overseas Fisheries Association (KOFA), a group of operators of fishing vessels in international waters, claimed the EU applied a double standard when blacklisting countries.

Yi Whan-woo wrote in the Korea Times that KOFA is criticising the EU for its silence with respect to China, and acknowledged the potential for the EU decision to be at least partly bases on a premise that Korean fishing boats compete with Spanish ones in seas off West Africa.

The association criticized the E.U. for keeping mum about China, saying its decision came partly because Korean fishing boats compete with Spanish ones in seas off West Africa.

According to a spokesperson from KOFA (on condition of anonymity in a telephone interview with The Korea Times):

The EU’s measure is rational at all, although its true we have performed IUUF activities […]

Chinese fishing boats have also been engaged in a number of IUUF activities but the EU is taking a lenient attitude […]

The Ministry (Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries) has been making efforts to cope with the unions requirements, and it is inappropriate to blacklist a country without giving it sufficient time to meet the demands.

According to the South Korean Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries, the EU has been demanding Korea equip its distant water fishing fleet with VMS, since 2010. It has also asked Seoul to set up a fisheries monitoring center (FMC) that oversees activities of vessels equipped with VMS through a satellite network.

A revised EU regulation requires all distant water fishing vessels operating on the high seas who are selling product entering the EU, must be equipped with a VMS commencing July 2014 The Korean National Assembly approved a bill in July 2013 to require the Ministry and Korean fishing boats to respectively set up an FMC and install VMS by mid-2014.

It would seem that South Korea may end up complying with EU regulations, and will overcome their preliminary black listing. They must. As I said above “for South Korea the possibility of being blacklisted by the EU is not only embarrassing; it could have real economic impact..“

J’accuse!! eNGOs point finger pointed squarely at South Korea as the main IUU tuna fishing nation in African waters on the back of EU accusations

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The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) annual meeting, in Cape Town, South Africa was the event that prompted Pew branding South Korea Seen as the main IUU tune fishing nation In African waters [Atuna 20 Nov 2013]. This IUU fishing costs the continent millions of dollars a year. Activist and environmental organizations are calling for new measure to prevent illegal fishing activities.

These accusations follow a a series of illegal fishing occurrences off West Africa, which involved Dongwon owned or operated vessels. Dongwon is South Korea’s largest tuna fishing company and owns US tuna brand StarKist. A swell as vessels from other South Korean companies like Seokyung Corp

Elizabeth Wilson of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ environmental wing commented that:

The worldwide value of illegal fishing was estimated between USD 10 billion and USD 23.5 billion in a 2012 report on illegal fishing off Africa by the Environmental Justice Foundation …There are indications that South Korean companies were among the major offenders involved in illegal fishing in African waters… This illegal fishing is a real problem. It’s definitely something that countries are starting to take more seriously and it’s something that we are hoping ICCAT will be looking at.”

What do Pew Propose?

    • Permanent Vessel Identification: Pew is calling on the ICCAT meeting to require that all vessels have to carry a permanent identification so that boats cannot change names or flags in order to avoid punishment of illegal fishing operations.
    • Catch Documentation Scheme (CDS): Pew is calling on the commission to implement an electronic catch documentation system that digitally records each tuna that is caught. The system is due for implementation in March, but according to Wilson, some states are pressing to move the deadline back.

These proposals come on the back of an issuance of a formal warning ‘yellow card’ to South Korea by the European Union (EU) if it fails to keep up with international obligations to fight illegal fishing (see Atuna [27 Nov 2013]  South Korea Risks IUU status in the EU). According to European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki:

These decisions show our steadfast commitment to tackling illegal fishing. The EU market is negatively affected as are local and EU fishermen. We continue to put pressure on the countries which are fueling the supply chain of illegal fishing be it as a coastal state, flag state, or flag of convenience. West Africa was identified as a major source of illegal fishing and my intention is now take the same thorough approach in the Pacific.”

Atuna notes that currently states such as Belize, Cambodia and Guinea are facing pending sanctions which will prohibit the export of fish products to the EU. This ‘formal warning’ provides South Korea, (along with Ghana and Curaçao) with notice that this could be a potential fate for its country as well.

The ‘concrete failings’ by South Korea prompting the issuance of the formal warning included the lack of actions to address deficiencies in monitoring, controlling and surveillance of fisheries. The EU suggested that South Korea implement corrective actions to resolve its shortcomings.

A chase at sea near South Korea: an entire fleet of illegal Chinese fishing vessels attempts to evade the South Korean Coast Guard. The fishermen were arrested by armed units soon afterwards. [ Source: http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-2/fisheries/illegal-fishing/ © Dong-A Ilbo/AFP ImageForum/Getty Images]

A chase at sea near South Korea: an entire fleet of illegal Chinese fishing vessels attempts to evade the South Korean Coast Guard. The fishermen were arrested by armed units soon afterwards. [ Source: http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-2/fisheries/illegal-fishing/ © Dong-A Ilbo/AFP ImageForum/Getty Images]

Transshipment is typical of IUU fishing. As seen here off the coast of Indonesia, smaller fishing vessels transfer their illegally caught fish onto larger refrigerated transport ships (reefers). The fishing vessels are restocked with fuel and supplies at the same time, enabling them to remain at sea for many months. [Source: http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-2/fisheries/illegal-fishing/ © Alex Hafford/AFP ImageForum/Getty Images]

Transshipment is typical of IUU fishing. As seen here off the coast of Indonesia, smaller fishing vessels transfer their illegally caught fish onto larger refrigerated transport ships (reefers). The fishing vessels are restocked with fuel and supplies at the same time, enabling them to remain at sea for many months. [Source: http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-2/fisheries/illegal-fishing/ © Alex Hafford/AFP ImageForum/Getty Images]

For South Korea the possibility of being blacklisted by the EU is not only embarrassing; it could have real economic impact. Atuna points out, that in July (2013), the Korean National Assembly amended its Water Fisheries Act to help curb illegal fishing. One of the amendments includes an increase in penalties for illegal fishing from a fine of USD 5,000, to a significant maximum fine of three times the value of the fish caught.

Chinese Subsidies threaten survival of Western and Central Pacific Seafood Industry!

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According to Michael Field, China is using vast subsidies to threaten the survivability of the fishing industry in the Western and Central Pacific – which includes New Zealand.

In an article in the Dominion Post, China threatens survival of fishing industry (published Tuesday 14 may 2013) Michael Field writes:

An international agency has warned that China is using vast subsidies to threaten the survivability of the fishing industry in the Western and Central Pacific – which includes New Zealand.

The alarm has been sounded in a briefing paper written for the 17-nation Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), which says that unless something is done at a high level, non-Chinese fishing operations are in trouble.

The paper, presented at a meeting this week at the FFA headquarters in Honiara, Solomon Islands, said there is deep concern about growth in the Chinese fleet and the high level of subsidies Beijing gives its deepwater fishing boats.

It is the official Chinese government policy to assist in the growth, expansion and modernisation of its (deep water fleet) DWF fleets and to use subsidies and incentives to achieve this aim,” the paper said.

The extent and magnitude of the subsidies was significant and likely to provide the Chinese DWF with significant cost advantage over unsubsidised fleets.

Chinese spending on its fleet is growing with new tax incentives being introduced.

The subsidies make all other nations’ fleets economically unviable due to their cost disadvantage.

The Chinese are increasing catch levels and forcing down the allowable catch rates of other nations, the paper warned.

Without governmental intervention in this issue and broad and active affirmative support of (Pacific Island) governments, the prospect for the survival of domestic non Chinese flagged vessels in the (Western and Central Pacific) would be extremely challenging.”

It said China plans to increase its DWF to 2300 vessels by the end of 2015.

It has a large array of subsidies including tax breaks to fishing companies, direct subsidies on fish caught, fuel offsets and favourable loan rates. Even provincial governments in China pay the access fees Chinese boats have to pay to fish in the South Pacific.

Environment organisation Greenpeace says the subsidies threaten Pacific tuna boat operators in particular.

These subsidies fuel the plunder of South Pacific albacore and are now leading to localised depletions and declines in catch rates across the fishery, jeopardising the livelihoods of locally owned small-scale tuna boat operators in Pacific Island countries,” said Greenpeace Australia Pacific oceans campaigner, Duncan Williams.

China Asia Typhoon

Sharks: The new whales…. Have all but disappeared from from our periphery

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Has anyone noticed the quiet on the shark front? I have. Its disquieting! Its loud! Its noticeable!

Just months ago in New Zealand the media was awash with shark stories… Let alone globally, where we were guaranteed a daily tidbit of shark conservation news that might include:

  • An update on the Pacific MPA/shark sanctuary race;
  • An exposé of a company that indulges in the commerce of shark products;
  • A exposé of a restaurant somewhere selling shark fin soup; or more common
  • An eNGO inspired account on the practice of shark finning.

But lately there has been very little.

As a cause célèbre are sharks succumbing to the plight of the whales?

We all remember when it was all… Save the Whales, Save the Whales, Save the Whales… And then all of a sudden the chorus stopped! Are the whales all good now? 

I don’t think so!… The truth of the matter is, that in today’s world of soundbytes and instant noodles… Whales, as a viable news item and as a cause célèbre simply hit its carrying capacity as far as the public ‘giving a shit’ goes. As a result, both the media and eNGOS simply moved on to other causes that captured the short attention span of the multitudes, and provided better financial benefit…

The plight of the whales remains the same. The only difference is that now the print media has stopped bringing their plight to our table tops every morning at breakfast, or to our TVs every evening on the news… without that daily input, there can be not output, at least from the lethargic public. 

Keep Calm and Save the Whales! Source: http://ichooseyoupikachuu.tumblr.com/post/36021744412

Keep Calm and Save the Whales!
Source: http://ichooseyoupikachuu.tumblr.com/post/36021744412

And now it seems as though Sharks are going the same way…?

Sharks up until very recently have been an issue that has aroused widespread controversy and heated public debate. We saw the rise  of a vociferous anti-finning polemic that up until very recently had provided the media with the feeding frenzy of articles and anecdotes it needed. But it seems that this has ceased to be.

Oceanic white tip shark

UNDER THREAT: Under threat: According to the Forum Fisheries Agency, oceanic white tip shark numbers are being driven ‘to the point of irreversible harm’ by fishing in the waters between New Zealand and Tonga.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/8171830/Taiwanese-fishing-boats-a-threat-to-killer-sharks

Only weeks ago stories like the following featured prominently in the media:
  • Shark fin soup still on offer (New Zealand Herald – 14 March 2013) Shark-fin soup is available at many of Auckland’s Chinese restaurants despite a determined environmental campaign to ban the collection of fins.Delegates at the triennial Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Bangkok voted on Monday to regulate the trade in shark species that have been threatened because of the demand for their fins for the soup.More than two dozen species of shark are officially endangered and more than 100 others considered threatened or vulnerable. A study in the journal Marine Policy raised concerns about shark welfare and sustainability and claimed more than 100 million sharks were slaughtered each year. Conservationists say the practice of “finning”, where fins are sliced from live sharks and the rest of the bleeding fish is dumped back into the sea to die a slow death, is inhumane.
  • Study exposes world’s slaughter of sharks (New Zealand Herald – 04 March 2013) Sharks are being slaughtered at an unsustainable rate, with a new study showing 100 million are killed a year […] Sharks are caught for meat, liver oil, cartilage – and especially their fins. Several nations have banned shark finning but the researchers found no drop in the numbers of dead sharks, many of which are dumped at sea after their fins have been hacked off. “Their numbers are crashing,” said Elizabeth Wilson of the Pew Global Shark Conservation campaign. “We are now the predators.” Conservation charities including World Wildlife Fund are lobbying hard for this Cites meeting, the first since 2010, to take decisive action on the illicit wildlife trade, with rhinos and elephants also under threat. The British Border Force’s specialist Cites team finds illegal items “every day“.
  • Plan to save feared predator delves into murky waters (New Zealand Herald – 26 Feb 2013) Conservationists say our lack of protection measures – sharks could be finned alive until four years ago – is a source of global embarrassment but the fishing industry argues the debate has been clouded by emotion […] Basking sharks, which are now protected by law, were believed to be killed by set nets and long-line tuna and hoki fisheries. Some of them had their fins sliced off by New Zealand and foreign trawlers while their carcasses were disposed of. The fins were exported to Asia for use in a mostly tasteless, but popular broth. This controversial finning practice is under increasing scrutiny in New Zealand, with more than 100 countries including the United States and the United Kingdom moving to, or considering, a “fins-naturally-attached” policy.
  • Frugality drive dents shark fin sales (New Zealand Herald – 21 Feb 2013) During last week’s Lunar New Year holiday, sales of shark fin soup plunged 70 per cent, the [Chinese] ministry [of Commerce] said. Sales of abalone and bird’s nest soup fell 40 per cent and makers of expensive liquor have seen sales weaken.
  • Mary Sewell: Speak up NZ – ban shark finning (New Zealand Herald – 07 Feb 2013) Staying silent on our poor record of conservation dooms New Zealand’s pure image to future ridicule […] A “National Plan of Action for Sharks” is currently being prepared by the Ministry of Primary Industries, with public consultation expected at the end of March. Read the material on the website (http://www.nzsharkalliance.org.nz) and let the Government know what you think.
  • Taiwanese fishing boats a threat to killer sharks (stuff.co.nz – 31 Jan 2013) Fishing paid in shark fins are causing a decline in two threatened species of shark in the waters near New Zealand’s maritime boundary with Tonga. The Tongan Government recently signed a deal with Ngatai Marine Enterprises Ltd to bring in 22 Taiwanese boats crewed by Indonesians. The boats use the same semi-slave labour system made infamous in New Zealand waters. Poorly paid, the crews suffer human rights abuses and appalling conditions on old vessels.
  • Shelley Bridgeman: What do you think about shark fin soup? (New Zealand Herald – 31 Jan 2013) “Shark finning, where the fins are removed and the body dumped overboard, is illegal in Europe, Australia, the US and Canada. The United Nations is currently seeking an international ban. But here in New Zealand, the fishing industry is free to cut off the fins of over 112 species of sharks found in our waters.”
  • Pupils act to stop cruelty to sharks (Dominion Post – 5 Dec 2012) A Pinehaven School classroom study about the cruelty of shark finning and its continued allowance in New Zealand waters will see Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins carry the message to Parliament. On Friday, Mr Hipkins was presented with a 100-signature petition and more than 20 individual letters from concerned year 5 and 6 students […] Shark finning is when fishermen cut the fins off sharks and throw the rest of the shark...
  • Shark Finning Stance a Stain on Our Global Reputation (stuff.co.nz – 04 Dec 2012) Imagine you’re out fishing. You haul in a whopper fish. You kill it, slice off 2 per cent of its body, and throw the other 98 per cent into the sea. Imagine the fish species has undergone a massive population decline and its long-term survival is under question. Now imagine this is happening somewhere in the world every two seconds.
  • Shark finning – a national disgrace (stuff.co.nz – 23 Oct 2012) New Zealand claims to have a world-leading sustainable fishery, yet the way we treat sharks is nothing short of barbaric and is rapidly becoming an international embarrassment. Sharks are some of the ocean’s most ancient creatures and have existed in our marine environment for more than 400 million years. They are apex predators, and the health of a shark population can in fact determine the health of the populations of fish that we like to eat. Rather than us being terrified of sharks, if sharks could indeed feel fear, they should be extremely frightened of us – since the horrific practice of shark finning is sending a range of species toward extinction.
  • Cheng’s Chinese Restaurant Timaru shark fin (Timaru Herald – 20 Aug 2011) A Timaru restaurant has been removed from a shark advocate group’s “wall of shame” after removing shark fin soup from its menu. The Australian Anti Shark Finning Alliance (TAASFA) has added a New Zealand “wall of shame” to its website, listing 10 New Zealand restaurants, including Cheng’s Chinese Restaurant, which it states sell shark fin products, and therefore are the reason shark finning takes place.”Without demand for shark fin, 200,000 sharks would not be slaughtered every single day,” the Australian website states.
  • Shark fin out of vogue (Food-Wine. stuff.co.nz – 1 Apr 2009) Shark fin soup is no longer the flavour of the moment among young Asian restaurant-goers. Singaporean groom Han Songguang even took his campaign to stop consumption of one of Asia’s top delicacies to a new level when he placed postcards of a dead shark on each guest’s seat at his own wedding banquet. Instead of shark’s fin soup, a must at many ethnic Chinese wedding banquets, Han offered his guests lobster soup.
  • Mutilated sharks found still alive (Dominion Post – 01 Jan 2009) The Conservation Department has condemned the cruel practice of live shark finning after around 30 sand sharks – some still alive – were found dumped in waters off Nelson […] It is legal to catch sharks for their fins in New Zealand though under the Animal Welfare Act they must be dead when thrown overboard […] Shark-finning – the fins are cut off for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup – is thought to have caused falling shark numbers in the waters around New Zealand. There have been previous calls to ban shark-finning [in New Zealand].
  • Fins cut, live sharks tossed back (stuff.co.nz – 01 Jan 2009) Sharks are being caught in the Nelson region and illegally thrown back alive with their fins removed. Department of Conservation Abel Tasman ranger Stu Houston said he came across a fishing boat in park waters on Tuesday, which had caught about 29 1m sand sharks and cut off their fins, throwing the mutilated sharks over the side. Some of the sharks were still alive.
  • Shark ‘finning’ condemned (Nelson Mail – 1 Jan 2009) Catching sharks for their fins and discarding the rest of the fish is “abhorrent” and is not condoned by the industry, fishing representatives say. In New Zealand, sharks can be legally caught and their fins removed, but the fish must be killed before being thrown back into the water. Mr Saunders-Loder said he did not know the details of the Abel Tasman incident but he felt that the sharks would have been bycatch. There were several shark species, and some were part of the quota management system while others were not, he said. Large numbers of dogfish and rig were caught in the region but were landed whole, with many different parts of the shark used.
  • Foodies sign pledge against shark fin soup (stuff.co.nz – 26 Aug 2008) Some of the country’s best-known foodies have signed a pledge to help stop shark finning. Shark finning involves cutting off the high-priced fins of sharks and dumping the rest of the body at sea. While the practice is illegal in many countries, it is still permitted in New Zealand waters, said Forest and Bird which has drafted the pledge. Signatories promise to not eat, make or serve shark fin soup, and either avoid restaurants which have shark fin soup on the menu or raise the issue with them if. They must also not catch sharks just for their fins and support a law change to make shark finning illegal in New Zealand.

Interestingly this very intense mono-dimensional shark narrative has been absent from New Zealand media for over a month now… But even abroad in other media the plight of the shark has been largely ignored over the past month….

CITES conference takes decisive action to halt decline of tropical timber,  sharks, manta rays and a wide range of other plants and animals http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/fact-sheets/cites-2013-porbeagle-shark-85899426386

CITES conference takes decisive action to halt decline of tropical timber,
sharks, manta rays and a wide range of other plants and animals
http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/fact-sheets/cites-2013-porbeagle-shark-85899426386

So what happened last month?

What happened in the last month (in New Zealand and abroad) that appeased the media, and diminished sharks as the lucrative cause célèbre for the eNGOs it obviously was?

Was it the announcement of Indonesia’s new shark and manta ray sanctuary?

“Indonesia has announced a new shark and manta ray sanctuary, the first to protect the species in the rich marine ecosystem of the Coral Triangle, known as the “Amazon of the ocean.” Environmentalists on Wednesday welcomed the creation of the 46,000-square-kilometer protection zone, in an area at risk from both overfishing and climate change.” (Jakarta Globe. 20 Feb 2013)

Nope!

Was the National Plan of Action for Sharks (NPOA Sharks) released by the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries?

In the next few months, the Ministry for Primary Industries will release a National Plan of Action for the protection of sharks in New Zealand waters.” It has not been released yet.

Nope!

So what did happen?…

Well it turns out that last month in Bangkok at the CITES COP Five shark species win protection against finning trade (the Guardian – 11 Mar 2013)

    • The oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus),
    • scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrma lewini),
    • great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran),
    • smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zigaena) and the
    • porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus)

According to the Guardian

Those fishing for oceanic whitetip, porbeagle and three species of hammerhead shark will now require strictly controlled permits to export the fins. The move is a landmark moment for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) because many previous attempts to protect marine species – including these sharks – have failed, largely due to opposition from Japan and China.”

A press release from the CITES COP 16 posits:

CITES conference takes decisive action to halt decline of tropical timber, sharks, manta rays and a wide range of other plants and animals 55 proposals accepted, 9 rejected and 6 withdrawn. Strong enforcement measures to fight wildlife crime also adopted […]

The meeting reached a climax today after an attempt to reopen the debate on these species in the closing Plenary was narrowly defeated. The Parties confirmed a decision made by one of the Conference’s Committees earlier in the week to include five commercially valuable shark species in Appendix II. The oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus), scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrma lewini), great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran), smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zigaena) and the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) are harvested in huge numbers for their valuable fins and, in some cases, meat. From now onwards, they will have to be traded with CITES permits and evidence will have to be provided that they are harvested sustainably and legally. These listings mark a milestone in the involvement of CITES in marine species.

although I hate to be so overtly cynical – it would appear that as a result of the addition of those five species to Appendix II of CITES all is good in the world of sharks… at least for awhile.

What’s my Point?

My point is this – Are these eNGO driven media campaigns this shallow?

Are they simply cause célèbre that burn burn burn ablaze, until the fuel is gone… and then they are no more?

It would seem this way wouldn’t it? But then why should I be surprised. We are talking about a world were it it doesn’t come quickly its not worth waiting for. Today’s world is a world of quick fixes and lightening legislation.

IUU Fishing: “J’accuse!” – China Accused Of Grossly Underreporting Its Catches

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China has been accused of partaking in Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by significantly under-reporting catches.

An article by Christopher Pala that Appears in Both Nature and Scientific American reports under-reported overfishing and excessive catches by Chinese vessels:

According to The Vancouver Sun:

China is grossly under-reporting its harvest of fish outside its territorial waters, a University of B.C.-led study suggests.

The study, published in the journal Fish and Fisheries, estimates the Chinese foreign fleet catches 12 times more than reported to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, an international agency that keeps track of global fisheries catches.

Catch levels are critical when determining sustainable catch limits and are an important indicator of the state of the ocean. The catch is estimated at $11.5 billion US or 4.6 million tonnes per year.

China Asia Typhoon

Haikou, China — A boat sails past docked ships at a port in Haikou, in south China’s Hainan province
(see: LA Times. The Week in Pictures | Oct. 18-24, 2010 | Photo Associated Press
http://framework.latimes.com/2010/10/20/pictures-in-the-news-47/#/14 )

Pala writes:

Fisheries experts have long suspected that the catches reported by China to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome are too low.From 2000 to 2011, the country reported an average overseas catch of 368,000 tons a year. Yet China claims to have the world’s biggest distant-water fishing fleet, implying a much larger haul, says the study, which was funded by the European Union (EU).”

Daniel Pauly (fisheries scientist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, who led the study) estimates that the average catch for 2000–11 was in fact 4.6 million tons a year, more than 12 times the reported figure (see ‘A colossal catch’). Of that total, 2.9 million tons a year came from West Africa, one of the world’s most productive fishing grounds.

The Vancouver Sun highlighted Daniel Pauly’s involvement in a study in 2001 that accused China of grossly misleading the United Nations for more than a decade about the state of its fisheries, effectively masking a steady decline in the world’s fish stocks.

According to Pauly

Chinese fishing vessels are taking a huge unreported global catch, fisheries researchers have found. Instead of an average 368,000 tons a year that China reported to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, its fleets hauled in as much as 4.6 million tons.”

This catch is taken from the waters of at least 90 countries, including 3.1 million tonnes from African waters, mainly West Africa. Pauly argues that this unreported catch is crippling the artisanal fisheries that help to feed West African populations.

He continues:

We need to know how many fish have been taken from the ocean in order to figure out what we can catch in the future […] Countries need to realize the importance of accurately recording and reporting their catches and step up to the plate, or there will be no fish left for our children. 

The problem is particularly acute in the rich fisheries of West Africa, where a lack of transparency in reporting is threatening efforts to evaluate the ecological health of the waters.

Local fishermen in West Africa are struggling with reduced catches.
Photo: Godong/ Robert Harding World Imagery/ Corbis
http://www.nature.com/news/detective-work-uncovers-under-reported-overfishing-1.12708

Pala quotes Didier Gascuel (from European University of Brittany in Rennes, France, and member of the scientific committee that advises Mauritania and the EU on fishing agreements):

So that’s where my fish were going! Year after year, Mauritanian populations of bottom-dwelling species such as octopus, grouper and sea bream have remained stubbornly low — a sign of over­fishing. We had no idea the Chinese catch was so big and of course we never included it our models

This tendency to be secretive was also acknowledged by Reg Watson & Daniel Pauly who in an article in the Journal of Fish and Fisheries (Coastal catch transects as a tool for studying global fisheries)

Chinese distant-water fisheries have become globally important economic actors. Unfortunately what did not improve in the transition to the 21st century … is the tendency towards secrecy in fisheries data.”

According to Scientific American:

The fishing contracts between Chinese companies and African nations are secret, so to estimate the catch […] The picture was further clouded because Chinese companies sometimes operate vessels flying local flags. So at least ten researchers combined clues from field interviews, scholarly articles and newspaper and online reports in 14 languages to estimate how many Chinese fishing vessels were operating in 93 countries and territories.

The group assembled their own database to calculate that China operated a far-seas fisheries fleet of at least 900 vessels to capture $11 billion worth of fish a year.

They found many in nations where China reported no catch. The estimates were averaged to reach their conclusion: China had at least 900 ocean-going vessels, with 345 in West Africa, including 256 bottom-trawlers.

fao

The logo of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

According to Atuna:

The study also found that China was taking 198,000 tons of fish a year out of Oceania. This is much greater than its reported western Pacific catch, almost exclusively of tuna, of 105,000 tons in 2011. China has rapidly expanded into Pacific fisheries, with 241 China-flagged vessels approved to fish by the Forum Fisheries Agency.

According to Nature, the Pauly and colleagues’ report has been criticized by Richard Grainger, chief of the fisheries statistics and information service with the FAO, who knows the number of catches reported from China is too low but he still feels the figures in the UBC study are “highly unlikely:’’

The new estimates seem far, far too high2 estimated the total unreported catch in West Africa (by all nations) at 300,000–560,000 tonnes a year.” (see Agnew, D. J. et al. (2009) Estimating the Worldwide Extent of Illegal Fishing PLoS ONE 4)

But China’s director of International Co-operation at the Bureau of Fisheries, Xiaobing Liu, confirmed last year it took 1.15 million tons, three times the FAO figure, in a speech to the EU last June.

What do the Netizens think?

I have included for your information a few of the of comments from the Reddit.com page China has been under-reporting its fish catch since 2000. Actual overseas fish take estimated at 12x reported values. West African fisheries are most exploited:

(From Hammerschlagen)

“I work as a mate (deck/navigational officer) on container ships for a living. The Chinese fishing fleets are absofuckinglutely ridiculous. These fleets are massive. Hundreds… thousands of fishing boats as far as the eye can see. It looks like a city lit up at night for miles and miles. Imagine trying to navigate a 700 foot long ship through that mess doing 20+ kts (about 25 mph… pretty effing fast for a huge ship). Here are a few pictures I took of the radar screen and from our ECDIS (electronic chart/map). All the blips and green triangles pointed upward are fishing boats”. http://i.imgur.com/rHbUV1H.jpg http://i.imgur.com/9gXHJlY.jpg

(From Frankeh)

Just a reminder that China makes up just over 1/7th of the entire earths population. It’s hard not to ruin shit when that’s a statistic you’re the owner of.

(From blipped)

They are engaging in destructive behavior because of demand. Most of these are poor people trying to make a living. You would likely do the same if you were in their shoes. Now, if people like you and me and all the others in the western world that demand it were to say demand sustainably raised and responsibly harvested fish then they’d do that instead. We make the world with our purchases every day. You want change, start buying it and encouraging others to do the same.

(From Hammerschlagen)

From my observation, this seems to go on 24/7/365. Our ship pulled in to Chinese ports once every 35 days for about 4 months and the fishing traffic was this bad every, single, time. I don’t see how there can be any fish left to catch…

NTM that the conditions which these fishermen are subject to… Some of these junks are like mother ships which put out a smaller fleet of skiffs (2 man boats) with our without an outboard motor. So these guys will be drifting about fishing, most of the time, in inclement weather (relative to how small their skiff is). AND they are fishing within a major shipping lane. We came so close to one of these skiffs one time I went out on the bridge wing of my ship and looked down (we are about 70+ feet above the water) and these guys were maybe 20 feet off my starboard side. They looked up at me and held up this big fish and gave me a thumbs up. Maybe they have become so desensitized to almost being hit by huge ships it doesn’t even phase them anymore. The only reason I allowed my ship to steam so close to them in the first place is because there are a ton of other huge ships in close proximity and making erratic course changes to dodge these small skiffs would cause a risk of collision with another cargo ship. 

At last count there were 3095 comments… Worth a look for you who are interested…

Greenpeace Tactics: Are they what they claim to be?

cropped-yellow-fin-tuna-school3

I was struck by a recently re-coined adage today:

“It does not matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true.”  Dr. Patrick Moore, President of Greenpeace Canada 1981

So I started fossicking around. First researching Dr. Patrick Moore himself (and the nature of his tenure as the President of Greenpeace Canada when that NGO was still very much in it’s infancy), and then the nature of the adage itself and how it applies to Greenpeace…

…and did I find some stuff!!

It would seem from my fossicking that Greenpeace (like no other eNGO) has both a vociferous base of supporters, who are prepared to go toe to toe with a considerable polemic of disparagers – who want to see the eNGO ‘normalise’.

I found a piece “How Greenpeace Works“, where a very pro-Greenpeace  proudly reminded us that:

[We] see Greenpeace in the places you’d least want to be. The crews of Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) face down whaling ships in the North Sea, perch atop abandoned oil rigs and float through the forbidden zones of nuclear-test areas.

Climate change denialists (CFACT) use Greenpeace Tactics in Protest: CFACT drop a banner on Greenpeace ships; the Rainbow Warrior with “Propaganda Warrior” banner; and the Arctic Sunrise with “Ship of Lies” banner earlier in the day

Climate change denialists (CFACT) use Greenpeace Tactics in Protest: CFACT drop a banner on Greenpeace ships; the Rainbow Warrior with “Propaganda Warrior” banner; and the Arctic Sunrise with “Ship of Lies” banner earlier in the day

According to  Greenpeace uses these

[…] sensational, non-violent confrontations to expose governments and corporations that abuse environmental laws. Such bold tactics create journalistic buzz, get the public’s attention and frequently influence national and international environmental and conservation policies.

She adds that:

“Although some environmental groups criticize Greenpeace for its tactics and argue that such organizations should focus solely on research and lobbying, Greenpeace has had marked success in its more than three decades of protesting. No organization embodies daring environmentalism quite like Greenpeace, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving endangered species, protecting the environment and educating the public. Greenpeace is more than just a group of radicals on RIBs willing to put themselves in harm’s way.” 

This piece got me thinking about Greenpeace Tactics and why they attract such a vehement polemic?

A CFACT press release in December 2009 entitled Climate Change Denialists Use Greenpeace Tactics celebrates the use of Greenpeace’s own tactics against them:

Global warming skeptics from CFACT yesterday [December 16, 2009] pulled off an international climate caper using GPS triangulation from Greenpeace’s own on-board camera photos to locate [Copenhagen, Denmark] and sail up long-side of the infamous Greenpeace vessel, Rainbow Warrior. Then in Greenpeace-like fashion, the CFACT activists unfurled a banner reading “Propaganda Warrior” which underscored how the radical green group’s policies and agenda are based on myths, lies, and exaggerations

Earlier in the day the activists daringly boarded Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise with neither stealth nor force, but by baffling the crew with doughnuts, and unfurled a banner that read “Ship of Lies” off the starboard side.

According to CFACT executive director Craig Rucker (the driver of the operation):

“Greenpeace has been using these kinds of tactics for decades, and now they can find out what it’s like to have a little taste of their own medicine.”

Craig Rucker provides justifications behind the banners:

“Greenpeace employs the same deceitful tactics in opposition to nuclear, hydroelectric and hydrocarbon energy, even though 1.5 billion people still do not have electricity – and thus don’t have lights for homes, hospitals and schools, or power to purify water and run offices, shops and factories.”

David Rothbard (the President of CFACT) acknowledged that initially Greenpeace was launched for the best of reasons:

“But it radicalized its mission. The more power it acquired, the more it abused that power,” he said. “Some of Greenpeace’s original cadre has left, feeling they can no longer associate themselves with its current agenda.”

According to CFAT campaigner Christina Wilson, Greenpeace is one of the:

“most unethical and irresponsible corporations on Earth […] It’s time to expose it for what it is, and help promote real environmental justice. So I was really excited to participate in this human rights effort.”

CFACT are not the only ones who are seeing red when they regard Greenpeace. In a blog piece “Many see red over Greenpeace tactics,” Rimbunan Hijau [from ITS Global] asserts in ardent  j’accuserie tones:

Greenpeace trespasses, creates disturbance, slanders and breaks international maritime law to create video files for the evening news. Is this about to change? 

It recently signed on to a code of conduct for non-governmental organisations that calls for honesty, fair comment, responsible public criticism and high standards of behaviour.

What is its record? [Well] It describes companies that have broken no law as corporate criminals. Shell, Nufarm, Monsanto and McDonald’s have had the treatment.

Last year, it profiled Charlie Banks, chief executive of a large British publicly-listed company, the Wolseley group, in a glossy report sensationally titled Partners In Crime: the UK timber trade, Chinese sweatshop, and Malaysian robber barons in Papua New Guinea’s rainforests. Wolseley’s crime was to import timber from China that may have included timber from PNG.

So what exactly are Greenpeace Tactics? 

www.Activatingthoughts.blogspot.in_Mahatma Gandhi (4)

Greenpeace claim to follow Gandhi’s model of Non-violent direct action (or NVDA). But they don’t!

I would argue that what Gandhi espoused was not NVDA at all, but Civil Disobedience. He asserted [as I see it] that an unjust law or an unjust regime may be overcome if everybody [that is society] refused to adhere to it:

Civil disobedience is the assertion of a right which law should give but which it denies… Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good… All through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants… and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall, always.”   Mahatma Gandhi

Where Gandhi’s concept of Civil Disobedience requires societal change through the actions (or more accurately the non-actions) of the many against the few; Greenpeace’s concept of NVDA involves only action that is undertaken by a few for the many. In this way, Gandhi’s concept of Civil Disobedience contrasts starkly with Greenpeace’s concept of NVDA.

Simply, NVDA involves only a few who hold a belief that something is wrong, and act out against that perceived wrong, for what they believe is for the benefit of the many! According to Martin Luther King, Jr.:

We who engage in non-violent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with… Injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience, before it can be cured.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I would argue that Greenpeace styled NVDA (although not the same) is more closely aligned  with the tactics of the activists of the 1960s who broke the law to create response, than the campaign of civil disobedience that ultimately lead to the emancipation of India from British colonial rule.

Yet even here I find it hard to draw parallels between 1960s NVDA and Greenpeace NVDA.

In my opinion…

The Civil Rights movement that saw the use of the term NVDA, was about the emancipation of a people… Consequently the NVDA of the Civil Rights movement became less ‘radical’ and  increasingly ‘normalised’ and ‘socially just’ as the civil rights campaign picked up momentum…

I would argue that in a relatively very short time, as people became aware of the injustice of their current civil rights regime, what was once merely NVDA, crossed the line into Gandhi-styled Civil Disobedience for the common purpose of evoking a civil rights regime change… But of course driven by action instead of in-action….

In this way the NVDA employed by Greenpeace is a significant departure from that employed in the 1960’s in the USA.

How does Greenpeace see their brand of NVDA? 

Our friend  makes the point that:

Although some environmental groups criticize Greenpeace for its tactics and argue that such organizations should focus solely on research and lobbying, Greenpeace has had marked success in its more than three decades of protesting.

She points out that Greenpeace is indeed:

A large International Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) with national and regional chapters in 40 countries. It has 2.8 million supporters worldwide who donate money  and volunteer time.

What is more Ms Dowdey makes a strong point that:

Greenpeace cultivates a large support base because it does not accept donations from governments, corporations, political parties or multinational bodies like the United Nations or the European Union.

So is Sarah correct? Is the money received in donations tacit support for Greenpeace’s policy of NVDA and non-alignment with governments, corporations, political parties or IGOs?

I would say no!

Why not? Well its simple. Support for Greenpeace isn’t unified and normalised. Rather support is ad hoc, fragmented and project based. For many Greenpeace’s take is radical. Even the claim that Greenpeace has close to 3 million supporters worldwide can be tempered with discussion of what actually constitutes support, and a hard look at the nature and extent of that support.

This excerpt from the article written by Mike Gaworecki (the web editor for Greenpeace USA), “Greenpeace: In Defense of Our Recent Activism Tactics,” published on the Treehugger website which celebrates Greenpeace’s  long history of using peaceful protest to achieve environmental victories, I think illustrates the ad hoc approach that Greenpeace takes:

Last month, Greenpeace lived up to its history. We re-branded Hewlett-Packard (HP) as “Hazardous Products” at its headquarters to remind the company of its commitments to phase toxic chemicals out of its products, while we hung a banner on Mt. Rushmore urging President Obama to “Be a Leader NOT a Politician: Stop Global Warming.”

What’s my point here?

Well my point is this! Greenpeace is not a social movement. It’s employment of NDVA is not akin to that which was utilised in the 1960s, as their campaigns have never become the campaigns of the many for for the many. Yet I get the impression that they are not intended to be such anyway. The subtext from Mike Gaworecki’s “Greenpeace: In Defense of Our Recent Activism Tactics” alludes to this idea loudly and clearly. The non-violent direct actions of Greenpeace are designed to just be enough:

More than the actions themselves, perhaps, the public awareness we gain from NVDA is what will really drive change. By helping to shape the public debate, Greenpeace is helping make a green and peaceful future a reality.

Greenpeace have been existing on the fringes, protesting in almost exactly the same way, inside and outside the law, since 1971. No campaign has ever gained enough traction to change the world… I do not expect that to happen any time soon…

Greenpeace have found their niche… They have graduated from the small time ‘good fight’ NVDA type eNGO to a large international NGO that employs NVDA type campaigns as part of a sophisticated modus opperandi to draw attention to problems, and at the same time, demonstrate that they are in the thick of it… fighting the good fight… for us!

Greenpeace has learned that the problems business pays well… Demonstrating that problems exist is good for business, fixing them is not!!!