Saturday, 18 February 2012

Ultra wealthy pseudo conservation rep claims exploiting the poor is good for them...

Mitt Romney, America's answer to Alan Partridge

When the ridiculously named, American, multi-millionaire, god bothering, Republican party leader hopeful Mitt Romney stunned pretty much every normal human being on the planet with his infamous "Corporations are people, my friend" speech, in which he claimed with an almost straight face that, “Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?” it belied not only the complete obliviousness to reality amongst America's ultra wealthy elite, but also their blind arrogance.

It was the separation of the vast majority, from the 1% of Americans who control 42% of the country's entire wealth, combined with Romney's smug disbelief that the people in the crowd weren't overjoyed for him and his equally minted cronies, that pissed us off the most and rightly so.

Watch the video here and bear in mind that despite the suave appearance, Mitt Romney is a clown, he is a man who admitted enjoying "firing people" and who in a period of global financial meltdown, made a $10,000 bet with Rick Perry during a televised debate while people all over his country are having their homes repossessed by banks and still, millions of hard working Americans are without access to first (or even second world) health care because they have been fooled into believing that caring for one's citizens is "Socialism" (which they think means "Communism.")

However, I digress, the arrogant belief amongst the wealthy that they are above the law is nothing new of course and a statement of almost Romney-esque stupidity has emanated recently from Singapore.

 This man thinks you're stupid.

The man responsible for this gaffe is the brilliantly named, multi-millionaire, Independent Director of Heng Long, Dr Giam Choo Hoo, who also happens to be Singapore's representative of the blustering, political powerhouse masquerading as an environmental body, CITES. 

If you don't know much about CITES (most people don't,) think of the IUCN, an organisation which utilises global scientific advice to make conservation decisions actually based upon the need for those decisions to be made, then go to the opposite end of the spectrum where decisions are made and fuelled by politics and therefore money, and it is there where you will find CITES.

The Jakarta Post reports that "three marine experts," namely Dr Hoo (ha!), Professor Steve Oakley (Chairman of Shark Savers Malaysia) and President of "Species Management Specialists" Hank Jenkins, claimed "it makes no sense to ban the sale of shark fins."

Before we go back to the pros and cons of shark fin bans debate, this isn't about these people discussing the ways we must move forward to give sharks the protection they need, it is nothing more than a smoke screening exercise in protecting the interests of those at the heart of Asia's shark fin industry.

Look at some of the points raised;

The topic has garnered recent interest here after a string of local supermarkets, such as Carrefour and FairPrice, and hotels like Shangri-La pledged to stop serving or selling the dish.

...Giam, Oakley and Jenkins all claim that prohibiting its trade will not dramatically reduce the number of sharks killed worldwide. They noted that many countries such as Germany, France, Australia and Iceland have long killed sharks for their meat.

Prohibiting the trade in shark fin doesn't necessarily stop sharks being killed, of that we can agree, but doing nothing at all to limit or ban trade all together absolutely guarantees things will get worse for the sharks. It doesn't take a genius to work that out. The inclusion of such magnificently Aryan nations as Germany, Iceland and Australia along with the ever so slightly swarthier France, also smacks of implying the age old race issue relating to the shark fin trade, you know, put in people's heads it's just everyone picking on Asia again...

Even if shark’s fin were banned, these countries would continue to catch sharks for the meat,” said Oakley.

For the most part, historically, these countries only started eating sharks in any numbers after the arrival of the shark fin trade, utilising the unwanted carcasses made available by the new motive to actually target and fish sharks. So that's not true.

Giam armed his presentation with figures from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization: In 2009, 70 percent of caught sharks were by fishermen in developing countries. “From my own research, fishermen in these countries are mostly poor and will eat every part of the shark,” said the former deputy director at the Primary Production Department, the predecessor of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

This is Dr Hoo's "Romney moment," what he's saying here is "without us going to these poor countries and giving them the means to harvest shark, they wouldn't have any sharks to eat, we're helping them, we're making their lives better!"

Dr Hoo, is of course, full of shit. The practise of exploiting the poor and destitute is one of the shark finning industry's most shameful defining traits. The best places in the world to find sharks are often third world countries where, let's face it, big corporations know they can get indigenous people to do whatever they want for the merest of rewards.

Shark fins sell in the US for as mas $1200 per lb, if the industry is so benevolent, maybe Dr Hoo would like to explain why, in certain atolls in Fiji, thousands and thousands of dollars worth of fins are harvested by locals in return for nothing more than a bag of sugar? In more developed ports, the reward is little more, a few dollars maybe. This is not isolated, this is the norm.

As an aside, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation climbed into bed with Monsanto, the food and agriculture world's NAZI party equivalent, who are looking at their own final solution on anyone standing in their way, like, you know, the local farmer down the road with a family to feed, or even you, if you so much as dare to ask just what chemicals they're putting in your food, so I'll reserve judgement on their ethical credibility if you don't mind.

...Shark protectors claim the dish kills up to 73 million sharks each year, with some of them tossed back into the sea to die after their fins are cut off. But Jenkins took aim at the statistics and pooh-poohed this widely held belief. He said the 73 million figure, attributed to marine scientist Shelley Clarke and cited by shark advocacy groups such as WildAid and Shark Angels, had been twisted to suit their needs.

A diversionary tactic and nothing more. Yes, we know that the numbers may be inaccurate and their usage has got somewhat out of control amongst the less informed and louder "shark conservationists" and the lack of credibility of the chief protagonists (Ritter, Watson, Brush et al) has meant that it is used as an argument against the whole concept of shark conservation, if these people who claim to be experts aren't actually experts at all and use misleading data, then everything else you're told about shark conservation must be lies right? Wrong. It's like citing Justin Bieber as your sole reason for not liking Rock n Roll.

In an interview with reporters after the forum, he stuck to his guns: “We’re calling for a temporary ban. Let the shark populations recover, put in place proper management, and make sure that the trade is sustainable before we start consumption again.” 

"What we'd really like is for our friends in the industry to get rid of the competition, monopolise the industry, manage the fisheries and establish "sustainability" by discovering there are no sharks left after we've fished them all out, then we'll know that location doesn't have a sustainable fishery because we've killed them all."

Too much? Maybe but a temporary ban? Anything less than twenty years would be utterly pointless and I don't think the big wheels of industry will be happy to wait twenty years before another bumper pay day, do you?

The panelists added that governments need to do more to regulate the trade of sharks. Oakley said this could involve making sure fisheries keep the number of sharks above a mandated minimum level. Sharks could then reproduce at a sustainable rate.

And how do they intend to do that? How do you manage populations of migratory sharks? You can't, this is an absurd statement.

As for Singapore, Jenkins said it could source its fins from sustainable producers. Last year, the Republic imported about 3,500 tons of shark’s fin, 40 percent more than the previous year.
The AVA said Singapore abides by the CITES agreement, under which the basking shark, whale shark, great white shark and sawfishes are protected species and their trade is strictly regulated. It allows only licensed fish dealers to import sharks and shark’s fin."

I've underlined and put in bold the most stupid part of this idiotic paragraph for you just in case

Can I just list some cold, hard facts which can hopefully be the blue bottle in this giant bowl of arsehole soup?

  •  Like a plague of locusts, industrialised fleets, strip mine the ocean of sharks. When one area is depleted, they move onto another area. Local residents, who are often poor and traditionally dependent upon natural resources, are left to deal with the ecological consequences of oceans with no sharks.
  •  "Shark finning" only determines how a dead shark’s body is discarded, not how many sharks are killed or whether the shark actually lives. "Shark finning" is not the problem, too many dead sharks is the problem.
  • Observer data from longline fishing boats states that approximately 90% of sharks landed are alive and could be returned to the sea alive meaning the majority of sharks caught for the fin trade are targeted and not bycatch
  • At the CITES convention in 2010 eight species of shark did not get protections as a result of the shameful decision not to ban international trade in Bluefin Tuna. A decision made for one reason only. Money.
  • The sharkfin trade is potentially and already, damaging to economies. A good example of the juxtaposition between destructive and sustainable environmentally reliant commercial enterprise is the island nation of Fiji, where the shark diving industry generates more money annually than the Tuna fishing industry. The major difference of course, being that one encourages, supports and relies upon live animals and healthy environments, the other is solely reliant on dead animals.
The point I am trying to make here is that this is an argument where the social elite, the wealthy and the greedy, whose reliance upon an industry which is ravaging the oceans and exploiting the poor purely to make money for a tiny, select group of men, is entirely dependent upon you, the consumer, providing the demand. They want you, us, to ultimately suffer through the irreparable degradation of our oceans, so they can continue to make their millions.

Or, we could refuse any shark product and instead, choose to support the far more widely beneficial pro-shark industries like shark diving and marine sanctuaries. These pro-shark options benefit us all, the former, destructive option, just makes rich people richer.

It's an easy choice if you ask me.

Update: Shark Savers have issued a response which is well worth reading. It appears Steve Oakley was not in the same corner as Dr Hoo, quite the opposite in fact as we would expect.

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the One called "Bitey"... said...

Nice post. Cheers.

OfficetoOcean said...

Thanks Bitey :)

Shark Diver said...

nicely written double points for the good doctor reference...

Save turtles borneo said...

Some of the comments you make are correct and to the point but some are way off. The Shark Savers response to the debate has all the facts (

Your last paragraph is missing the point, I agree that we should "refuse all shark products", BUT most Singaporean consumers do not. A total ban on shark products in SE Asia would not have the support of the people/ consumers at the moment.
Shark Savers, ACRES,and Myself are working hard to raise awareness and ultimately get some form of regulation to help sharks in an area of the world which trades very large quantities of sharks. Even you would agree that some regulations is better than the current free for all. We are supposed to be on the same side but you managed to quote the very pro conservation Louis Ng from ACRES as being a supporter of the opposition.
Some of your comments are 100% correct but the racism and the capitalism rants simply detract from the real problem.
Prof Steve Oakley, Speaker at shark fin debate in Singapore.

OfficetoOcean said...

Thanks for commenting Steve and yes, you're right, this was written at a time before it became clear that the association of yourself and Louis was a misprint, you'll notice at the bottom of the piece I address that and link the excellent Shark Savers response.

I also agree that regulation is a thousand times better than a free for all and perhaps my language was slightly more confrontational than intended. I am aware that there will almost certainly never be a blanket ban on the harvest of sharks and that shark fishing will never go away so stricter regulatory control on a global scale is probably the best we can hope for.

This is of course, as most things are, dependent upon money. The regulation of any trade involving the environment (or pretty much anything else) is always dependent upon money and the shark fin trade is most definitely an issue of capitalism and exploitation so ignoring that completely is to ignore the reason the problem exists. Unsustainable fishing exists purely because a small amount of people are financially rewarded in huge amounts, to encourage people of far lesser means to continue destroying an environment. If that financial reward wasn't there, would it still happen? I doubt it.

The comment that this post contains racism is concerning though because you won't ever find me using any issue of race to back up or discredit and argument ever so I think that is unfair of you to claim that.

However, this is an opinion piece, if I can direct you to;

You will see I address issues in this post where I may have done better and link to two articles which I feel my readers will be best served using as reference for our side of the debate.

Thanks again for your comment and the hard work you are doing out there.