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Saturday, 22 August 2009

Who Eats All the Fish?

A Report to Humane Society International
By Wilf Swartz and Daniel Pauly
Presented at IWC 60
June 23, 2008
Santiago, Chile

I spent some time reading this report and it's content is truly astounding. It paints a very dark picture of our oceans future and makes a mockery of Japanese scientific research.

The Japanese claim that there needs to be a cull of whales in order to protect the oceans fish is one that they are using to draw third world or developing countries into the IWC and support Japan's wanting to resume commercial whaling.

It sounds like an almost plausible reason to consider the whale as a threat to our food sources and without further investigation could mislead others into supporting this line of thought.
The issues of economic development and food security in developing countries are multifaceted. The necessary debates, however, do not benefit from the confusion that the “whales-eat-our-fish” argument generates. On the contrary, the scarce scientific and administrative resources of developing countries are invested in a non-issue, their public media are being misled, and a tremendous amount of ill will is generated for no reason.

The report attached counters the Japanese claim that whales eat all the fish in a clearly scientific manner, but is also easily readable and understandable by the common man - such as myself.
The sources for this line of arguments are two papers released by the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) in Tokyo: one a global review of the food consumption by marine cetaceans (Tamura & Ohsumi 1999) and the other, a regional review (Tamura & Ohsumi 2000), neither of which were published in a peer-reviewed journal. In theses papers, the authors took three different estimates of the daily prey consumption, based on assumptions on the relationship between body mass and daily energy required to sustain a given body mass, and multiplied the value by the population estimates and 365 days to compute the annual food consumption for each species. They then aggregated these estimates to determine, in their view, total food intake for all marine cetacean species.

While this line of argument may appear to have some superficial logic, there are many problems associated with it—so many, in fact, that the scientific community has effectively refused even to consider a discussion about hunting cetacean species if these crude estimates are to serve as the basis.

It is easy to see why the scientific community has rejected the studies. The first, deadly flaw in this argument that ‘whales are eating our fish’ is that, the further back in time one goes, the higher the fish biomass AND the number of marine mammals – even if a precise knowledge of their number still eludes us.

There are so many factors that Japanese science has left out of their equations that no one in the scientific community is willing to consider it legitimate results from a reliable source. It does seem however that they are able to sway certain nations to this belief, so much so that:
Marlene Moses, Nauru’s Permanent Representative to the United Nation was cited in an official press release as saying “some whale species have the potential to devastate our tuna stocks, and, as a country whose food security and economy relies heavily on fishing, it is our responsibility to ensure the sustainability of our people’s livelihoods” (Permanent Mission of the Republic of Nauru to the United Nations 2005). Similar statements, similarly lacking a biological basis (whales don’t eat tuna), were made at a recently held international meeting in Dakar, Senegal, devoted to the interactions between whales and fisheries in Northwest Africa.
Which supports the conclusion that:
It is difficult to ascertain if the enthusiastic support offered by the developing countries represents genuine concern for their food security or is simply rhetoric used to hide some quid pro quo agreement for their support that has nothing to do with whaling.
The report contains some hard hitting facts in regard to our global fishing behaviour. So taking aside the Japanese concerns of "whales eating all the fish" there seems to be much more concerning evidence to support that "we" are eating all the fish.

Not only are we eating all the fish we aren't even compensating or supporting developing countries for letting us use their waters. We're even encouraging them to allow the rape and plunder of their oceanic resources through underhanded means because if they were to say no their losses would be significant.
Although the fisheries sector may present opportunities for developing countries to earn foreign exchange, the demand from international markets exerts huge pressures on fisheries resources. Thus, meeting demand may encourage intensive, destructive and illegal fishing to the detriment of sustainability. There are also concerns that promoting international trade in fisheries products could have negative consequences for local food security. Impacts may include reduced physical and economic access to fish by channelling fish away from local markets to international markets and perhaps of even great consequence, a large increase the local price of fish (Kurien 2004).
In practice, much of the foreign exchange earned from the export of fish is not devoted to purchasing low cost, nutritious foods for the undernourished population, but is diverted to the purchase of luxury products in demand by local elites or to serve the needs of visitors (van Mulekom et al. 2006). Thus, participation in international fish trade may result in a net gain of benefits to the nation as a whole, but a net loss to the poor majority.
It's difficult not to quote the entire publication it is of such staggering importance. I would highly recommend that you take the time to read it.
... lack of knowledge, however, cannot and should not be used to blame whales for the tremendous decline in fisheries experienced in the last decades. It is specious reasoning and ethically unconscionable.


Unknown said...

According to the whalers' own records, they cut open 5,940 whales between 1987 and 2005. In three out of four whaling zones, not a single fish was found in the stomachs. In the fourth zone, 0.2 percent of the stomach contents were fish. That's a total of 125kg of fish found in 18 years of "research".

Source: Greenpeace International

Unknown said...

Will Killing Whales Save the World's Fisheries?
By BRYAN WALSH Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009,8599,1880128,00.html

Preserving commercial fisheries isn't as simple as culling whales — it isn't simple at all. But if the world's fishing nations fail to curb overfishing and protect endangered marine habitats, in the end, whale might be all we have left to eat — and trust me, you won't like it.

Carla said...

Whales eating our fish???
Have I gone crazy? Baleen whales, such as the Minke, the largest Japanese Whaling target in antarctic waters, eat krill (small crustaceans) and SOME SMALL schooling fish. I am not aware of any humans who eat krill. I also doubt that any of the baleen whales are gobbling up so many sardines that humans are in danger of not getting their fair share.
But like I said, maybe I have lost my mind...
I think people know what whales eat. Does Japan think the world i really that stupid?

Unknown said...

I think it's fair to say that a small element of the Japanese expect us to believe that is the case.

See follow up article:

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