Monday, March 29, 2010

CITES Disaster

Our friend Jupp Baron Kerckerinck zur Borg, President of the Princeton-based Shark Research Institute, just came back from Doha / Qatar.


This is his disturbing report:


A journey into Extinction.


At the 15th Conference of the Parties of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), in beautiful Doha/Qatar, the oceans were dealt a terrible blow by Japan.


It was Japan, together with China, Singapore and quite a few of the small countries, who received financial aid from Japan and participated in what I would call “The Oceans’ Pearl Harbor”. To watch them win this battle during which we all worked so hard to save and protect endangered marine species from extinction, was devastating.


The big losers of this despicable and ruthless behavior are the oceans, the sharks, the red corals and the Atlantic blue fin tuna.  Since the ocean is our life support system, that makes all humans who live on this planet, big losers as well. Without a healthy ocean we will not be able to survive.


That is why I keep asking myself: “Who gives those people the right to loot our oceans?” Sadly, the answer is: “The members of CITES”. They handed them the mandate to do so.


The fact that Japan was represented by 50 people, giving a lavish sushi party at their embassy the night before the vote on the tuna, twisting arms and applying pressure on the poor countries to get their vote, is clever but a disgusting display of “ownership” over our
oceans.


Am I wrong when I say “our oceans”? Until now I was under the impression that the world’s oceans belong to all of humanity and not to a “chosen few”, who claim it their birthright to rob them of whatever those people like. The sushi party clearly tells me how the votes against sharks, tuna and red corals came about. You don’t need to be a marine scientist to figure that out.


I don’t believe that anybody would doubt that this kind of behavior had one common denominator: Money. I found it quite embarrassing to watch the representative from Island, walking around after the final vote on the Porbeagle shark was lost; putting her arms around every Japanese she could get her hands on and hugging the representatives from Singapore to show her pleasure over the damage they did to our
oceans.


So what did we finally achieve as far as the oceans are concerned? It was a death sentence to the blue fin tuna and to certain shark species, which made those people, whose only concern is money, so very happy. There was little talk about the protection of marine life.
Nobody paid attention to the scientists, who warned about the consequences to the ocean if those species would be exterminated.


The fact that the population of the blue fin tuna has already been reduced by 80%, that the red coral is almost extinct in the Mediterranean, and that the hammerhead and some other sharks have been depleted by 90% in some areas, did not matter to those who want to continue the multibillion dollar business of killing them all.


Is that what CITES is all about? Has it become a convention in favor of trade with endangered species? There was a lot of talk about poor people who would suffer if we stop the killing; but I don’t know too many poor people who do damage to the oceans. The damage is done by huge long-line fishing vessels, owned by rich people.


I also don't think that too many poor people will indulge in blue fin tuna sushi or in shark fin soup. That is exactly what the Japanese are doing and that’s why the Sunday Times rightfully calls them: “A Country out of Step”.


Jupp Kerckerinck zur Borg
President
Shark Research Institute

1 comment:

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