Thursday, 5 July 2012

Thank Neptune for rich, white people!

OK, firstly, I am in a foul mood so this probably won't be very nice and some of you won't like it so sorry about that.

Have you seen "Team America: World police?" Not only is it a work of comedic genius, it is also a stinging and frighteningly accurate attack on the propensity of a group of people to blindly believe that what they believe is right and the best way to make the rest of the world (who is obviously "stupid" of course,) realise that you're right and they're wrong, is to just blindly blunder into situations and start throwing your weight around.

Sometimes, sometimes it has the desired effect but often, it's a pointless, badly planned endeavour, undertaken by woefully under trained, inexperienced and under qualified people, which actually makes the situation worse and sees you getting chased out of the Mediterranean by the Libyan Navy.

So, in true Team America fashion, we have this, Operation Requiem, requiem meaning a "mass for the dead" and there also being a group of sharks referred to as "Requiem Sharks," geddit?

Operation Requiem from Built By Wildman on Vimeo.

First, the nice stuff...

It looks visually excellent, again, Shark Angels have put together video media which contains some truly brilliant footage, I'm not sure if Paul Wildman is behind this one and if he is, kudos, great work again by a cameraman I think is really, very, very good. Also, I like Julie, she's a really nice lady who I had the pleasure of speaking with on the phone for an hour and a half a few years ago and I am in no doubt her love for sharks and the ocean is totally genuine. I even have a grudging regard for the elephantine ego that is Paul Watson, for all the self promotion, arrogance, dreadful poetry, saying the Tsunami in Japan was them just getting what they deserved and the lies, at least the dude is trying to do something, albeit in a misguided, clumsy and occasionally, thoroughly offensive way.

Now the not so nice and I'm coming at this from two points, one from a genuine shark lover who has had that passion longer than most around today, and the other from the perspective of someone who knows a bit about "direct action"and putting yourself in the thick of it, not in regards to conservation however I may add, so it had neither the budget nor safety of giant war ships when it came on top but I'll leave that there if you don't mind.

There are a great many problems with direct action, the main being that it is seen from the outside as being edgy, cool and not to put a too fine a point on it, fun. Direct action is fun, it's an adrenaline rush and you feel like you're doing something but these things need to have a purpose and they need leadership, the problem with a lot of direct action is that it is often nothing more than the half blind leading the totally blind, giddy and idealistic and these are the people who do stupid things without considering their consequences. It's also a magnet for the blustering egos resplendent in their anarchist uniform, desperate to be seen as a main face in the badass sea pirates, huuuuhh!!

Recently a name has appeared shouting carefully scripted battle cries to the assembled fluttering eyelashes, constantly making sure we are all aware how informed and involved they are, "Hey, I have this petition, I did, please sign my petition, this one here, the one I did," it was a name I hadn't heard of until this year and the more I've seen it, the more arrogant I have found his statements to be. That arrogance manifests itself on the comments section of this post by Mike in a post oozing self satisfactory pomposity from every pore. Mike's response echoes my own thoughts, an awful lot of hot air with zero substance and as usual, no positive results. I don't know Gary and haven't met him, but I'm neither impressed, nor motivated to jump on board the Stokesmobile as it splutters off into oblivion, accompanied by a calvacade of willing servants, many of whom are decent, intelligent and worthy people who have been drawn in by everything that accompanies this most bloated of conservation beasts.

I prefer to say nice things, I don't like criticising, I would much rather be celebrating awesome, cool and worthy things, proper conservationists like  Brad Robertson, but I just cannot abide self congratulatory arrogance, I hate it. I'm not a bad guy, I'd like to think anyone who has ever met me would at least say I was straight up, genuine and hopefully at least "alright" but when you read that comment on Mike's post, it shows how embarrassingly misinformed Gary is about what the Beqa Adventure Divers crew have done and continue to do in Fiji and its relation to "Operation Requiem" needs to be addressed and I'm afraid Gary, you have had what we in the UK call "a 'mare."

Fiji has recently closed the gate on Sea Shepherd, ("pirates" who actually announce they're coming? It's like a burglar knocking on your front door...) and have been absolutely right in doing so. I actually think that in areas of lawlessness where poaching takes place, having a well trained, well fed, prepared and efficient Sea Shepherd type vessel and crew would be great but therein lies part of the problem with Sea Shepherd, they want it to be them when anyone with a modicum of sense would have locals protecting their own waters, permanently and without Animal Planet's cameras scripting every move for them.

Many will undoubtedly look on little Fiji, with its people who live in huts and wear grass skirts, with their quaint little songs and beaming smiles and come to the assumption that they need the white man to go over there and hold their little hands and protect their sharks for them but then, those people would be morons. That is effectively what Sea Shepherd are saying and here is the crux of it, "Operation Requiem" is a TV show, nothing more, everything about this project is geared towards a successful television show, ratings and hopefully, in true Alan Partridge fashion, a second series. (Watch that link, it is brilliant!)

They don't need to go to Fiji, Shark Reef Marine Reserve was achieved without them, the regeneration of an entire reef eco-system was done without them, it is successfully stewarded and ferociously guarded without them and on the 17th of July 2012, the government will convene to discuss the potential confirmation of the most stringently protected Shark Sanctuary on the planet, all of this without Sea Shepherd, in fact, all of this achieved quietly, with great aplomb and properly, by those same "little islanders in their grass skirts" so please, show them some fucking respect.

As far as I can tell, Sea Shepherd want to be there to bask in the reflected glory of the hard work and dedication of others and I find that, in all honesty, repugnant. The belief they can just swan in to a fanfare of congratulations and adoration from a proud, respectful people is as misguided as it is arrogant and the offence their presence could cause could also greatly harm the years and years of hard work that has got Fiji into this position in the first place. The Fijian people are a wonderful, welcoming and kind hearted people but in the event Sea Shepherd start upsetting the locals, they will wish they were back in the Med getting chased off by the Libyan Navy again. Does anyone in the SSCS organisation understand the concept of qoliqoli? Do they have an understanding of the cultural significance of sharks and other marine creatures in Fiji? I doubt it. The white man go and tell Fijian islanders what to do? Yeah, good luck with that, the last to try that were the missionaries and most of them ended up as dinner and that wasn't even that long ago.

"The Sea Shepherd approach is that of interventionists, that is we intervene directly against illegal activities..."

Fair enough so why the need to go to Fiji? The Shark Sanctuary if implemented, will be policed by Fijians, exactly how it should be, creating opportunities and an infrastructure for the local communities, so are you saying you don't think they're capable of that, that the white man needs to come and teach them how? By "offering your services" you are preemptively asserting that you don't think they're up to the job.

All that being said, I agree with a lot of what is said in the trailer and the issue of poaching and shark finning does need to be confronted head on but properly, not as a plot line for a TV show. Watching people playing pirates on the high seas, as fun as that all sounds, doesn't inspire me to believe a single thing will be changed, I don't have any faith in the potency of any of this, what happened to the campaign to get the nets removed in South Africa? 

I'll probably upset a few people with this, I'm sure I'll be persona non grata with many for airing my opinions but I wanted to address it anyway, of course, I have an interest in this as I am editing a film about shark conservation in Fiji, celebrating the Fijians and their culture along with the achievements of the people there but you'll have to wait a bit for mine.  As Julie said, "so few people are willing to give up everything to save the animals that very few people care about," and I've done exactly that but without a mountain of money behind me and only to be met with a wall of apathy and silence from the very people who promote themselves on television as being the sharks' ultimate saviours. 

Those years ago, any ideal I had that we were all on the same team evaporated when I realised fairly quickly that there is no team, just the same group of people fighting over what little funding there is, willing to dilute the message to get that commission and appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Unless anyone offers me opportunities otherwise, I'll stick to doing things on my own rather than do that, however, it's worth pointing out that I was allowed into Fiji to hang out with the sharks there and not only that, I had the support of the Fijian government in doing so and I'm a nobody, I don't even have a cool pointy boat.

P.S Read this post by Mike, great stuff.

My profiles: Vimeo Blogger


DaShark said...

Absolutely f'king brilliant David!

OfficetoOcean said...

Thank you, I've been trying to lay off the rants this year as well!

Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

SharkWarrior said...

Good blog David, keep saying it like it is.Lesley

Anonymous said...

"Half blind leading the totally blind" in my "anarchist uniform " and there's me thinking i was actually making a contribution to the efforts to , at least do something rather than sit back and watch politians repeatedly dodge any marine conservation issues .Then we come to LAWS, Great on paper , in reality woefully unenforced ,why , MONEY.why spend cash conserving marine life with zero return, except maybe a mention in the media now and again , when you can rake it in , keep the fishermen employed (paying tax), all you have to worry about is someone with a "cool pointy boat" and let's face it that's all they worry about ...

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Ahh sounds like blog goodness to me, wham, bam, shark truth man!

OfficetoOcean said...

I'm guessing this is Gary...First off, fair do's for your second reply to DaShark's blog and your subsequent apology, that's more like the kind of stuff we all want to see and hear...

Look, your petition to remove Dr Giam is actually something I think is a useful and worthwhile endeavour because it has raised awareness, I noticed only two days after yours, two others popped up from people obviously wanting a bit of the attention this cause has generated, pointless when these people would have been better served promoting your original petition.

Outside of awareness, petitions that aren't accompanied by an already established campaign on the ground, scientific data, financial clout and political support almost always achieve the square root of nothing, but yours at least has ensured that the issue is being discussed which is a start. It won't remove Dr Giam, no chance, but it's a good and worthy baby step because the issue of conflicted interest is now more common knowledge than ever.

You are right, laws are sometimes great but the good laws can only be good if they are enforced and it is NOT for the self appointed badass sea pirates to do so in order they can make another sackload of cash from a scripted reality TV show. That's why I raised the issue of Fiji, they're not needed, they know that, they can be of no assistance whatsoever yet they know a sanctuary being announcd is a possibility and they want to be seen to be there when it happens so they can leech off the hard work and achievements of others. Laws need money to be enforced, if SSCS gave the money they get to local communities to set up a law enforcement infrastructure for local communities, that would do a whole world of good but unfortunately, that won't make good TV and won't involve zooming around the high seas in a pointy boat and swimming with sharks in slow motion...

It's not to do with getting the tax from fishermen, are you trying to tell me artisanal fishermen should be subjected to the same rules as intrusive industrial fleets? Do you know anything about how Mediterranean fishing is quite the opposite of what you say, it actually COSTS governments money to send these fleets into the Med to wipe out almost all marine life there. They subsidise these fleets, spending money to send more and more out to catch less and less fish, it's insane.

I don't just worry about the cool pointy boat, it's the fact that I am sick and tired of these people lying to me to flog me fake ideals about something I actually think is very important. It's offensive, irresponsible and deceitful.

I don't like being critical of things or people in general but I'm sick of seeing this shit and seeing people suckered in by it, I have no motives other than those I think have ethical and moral value in the efforts to protect sharks.

Anonymous said...

Hello again David , this is and was terry bull that commenting on your Blog , for some reason it's not adding my profile , what I find offensive and irresponsible is being labeled has some sort of mindless idiot unable to think for myself , I support and volunteer for SSCS because I too am sick of lies and deceit , we are all aware of how hard it is for the local groups trying their best to protect marine life in their own backyard , but time and time again Money and real commitment from the authorities is lacking ...

OfficetoOcean said...

Hi Terry :)

I wouldn't label you as that, nor would I label the vast majority of SSCS supporters or volunteers, please note that I do say...

"...many of whom are decent, intelligent and worthy people who have been drawn in by everything that accompanies this most bloated of conservation beasts."

We can all accept that we are inundated with lies from all angles these days unfortunately and it does nobody in conservation any good when one of the sources of lies is one of the conservation orgs themselves, they're not alone in that, but in chasing the limelight they do set themselves up to be shot at when they mess up.

I love the concept of a group which actively protects marine life that needs protection but their involvement usually makes things worse unfortunately. I used to think they were pretty cool myself but I just got sick of the lies and the obsession with being TV stars.

That's not the normal volunteers either, it's Paul Watson and his henchmen and women. This blog was inspired by their going into Fiji where the government has already said to stay away, where the sharks already have guardians, where there is already a strong possibility it will become one of the biggest shark sanctuaries on the planet and where all this work has been done by locals with dignity, class and in the most professional of ways.

SSCS and SA going there runs a very real risk of throwing that progress backwards all out of a desire for nothing more than to fulfill script commitments for a TV show. If they cared that much, they wouldn't be going because it gives the anti-sanctuary faction in Fiji the perfect ammo to turn public opinion against shark protection due to the great offense they could cause. They may believe they will be welcomed as heroes but they are not wanted and they know this but still they go...

Look at the Marshalls capturing the poachers in the news today, Fijians protect Shark Reef, Palauans protect Palau, all of this protection is done without SSCS or Animal Planet. People in these types of aras do not like the white man barging in and telling them what to do.

Good, decent, hard working and passionate people support SSCS, my point is not against them and people like them (i.e. you) it is against those at the top who perpetuate the cult of celebrity over intelligent conservation and who dilute and sully the work done by people like yourself.