Sunday, June 11, 2006

Of whales and sharks

I have heard from someone who is already in StKitts & Nevis, the small Caribbean island state where the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission will start next Friday, that the host government has displayed on the island numerous Welcome banners for the delegates. But the banner apparently shows a whale shark (the largest of all fishes) instead of a whale !

Oh well, I think whale sharks (and all sharks for that matter, including the few species among them who behave like the wolves of the sea) are cool and iconic too.

(But of course, unless it changes - which is unlikely - the government of StKitts "bought" by Japan does not think whales are cool).

I am on my way to New York for the UN Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, and on Thursday I will go to StKitts to attend the meeting of the International Whaling Commission.

I hear that the Internet connections in StKitts are not optimum, and I will be quite busy in both New York and StKitts. So it is unlikely that I post comments before I am back home on 22 June.

News on the UN Process will be posted regularly on the websites of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and the Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

This year the meeting will discuss the implementation of the ecosystem approach for the management and conservation of fisheries.

We have a lot to say on this.

For example, the response of this year's UN General Assembly to the proposal to adopt a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling will be a test-case of the ability of the international community to put its words into action, four years after the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development pledged to implement the ecosystem approach to biodiversity conservation (as opposed to a single species approach). Bulldozing seamounts hosts of endemic species we don't even know yet, cold water corals that have grown for two thousand years or more (older than Jesus Christ!), and other vulnerable deepsea ecosystems can't be in line with the ecosystem approach, can it?

Also, with the UN consultative process preceeding (and even overlapping on Friday) the International Whaling Commission meeting, will any country pervert the ecosystem approach and suggest that humans should cull the predators of commercially valuable fish species? According to an homo-centric view of the ecosystem approach, humans (the largest and most destructive predators) should control and prevent the growth of fish's natural predators (even though no-one can deny that it is industrial fisheries and other man-made environmental ills that are responsible for the collapse of fisheries resources). Against this homo-centric business-based interpretation of the ecosystem approach, we propose a rational science-based and ethics-based eco-centric view. Should the eco-centric approach not prevail, it could be bad news not only for whales, dolphins and seals, but also for seabirds, sharks, etc...And as always with environmental damage, of course humans themselves get hit in return by the boomerang effect.

News and analysis on the International Whaling Commission meeting will be posted on numerous websites. For example, the Whales and Dolphins Conservation Society, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Environmental Investigation Agency, and of course WWF and Greenpeace, among many others.
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