Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You mean: "Save the dolphins"...?

"Dear Minister:

I don't care what it takes - I want the whales protected. Whether it be lack of salmon stocks, stopping navy sonar equipment, curbing pollution in our have the office and the authority to do so and we are running out of time.I am also writing to Prime Minister Harper to express my concerns. Yours truly N.K."

We received this email this morning, from a very well-meaning little girl. I hesitate to use the term woman, as the childish innocence of this e-mail's composition leads me to believe that this is not from a mature individual. I'm going to guess that it's from a 10-year old. If the author is any older than that, not only would I be surprised, but they are dumber than a stick if that is in fact their understanding of how the world works.

I'm going to have to assume that she is talking about the orca (Killer Whale) populations in the Pacific Region. They would be the only ones that might consume salmon and therefore be adversely affected by the dwindling salmon stocks. Orcas, it should be noted, are not whales at all. They are in fact the largest members of the dolphin family. They live on many prey items, not simply salmon. If the salmon become less plentiful, they will simply switch their diets to accomodate. BC's coasts are rich in seals and sea lions, both known prey items of orcas. To carry this even further, orcas actively hunt down and kill several species of whales, which in reality is how they earned their name.

Dwindling salmon stocks are indeed a valid concern in the Pacific Region. The commercial fishermen, as well as those who fish recreationally for salmon, are almost besides themselves beause of the conservation measures taken by DFO in the Pacific Region. Conversely, the Aboriginals are allowed free reign as far as harvesting salmon goes, which they regularly do by spreading gillnets across a salmon run and basically hoovering the rivers clean. Our political correctness will be the undoing of us yet. It will certainly spell the end of the salmon stocks in the meantime. It is true that at one time in our collective history, the aboriginals were rightly seen as the stewards of our wildlife resources. The voices of wisdom when it came to the interactions between man and beast. Well, that's no more than just another bad and inaccurate Hollywood stereotype these days. The aboriginals are the absolute worse offenders when it comes to the bold, in-your-face raping and mismanagement of our remaining anadromous fish stocks. Then of course, there is the incredible amount of poaching which goes on, committed by non-aboriginal criminals. Fisheries research institutes are also pointing their collective fingers at global warming, when attempting to explain the decline of the returning West Coast salmon stocks.

Recent research has indicated Navy sonar equipment has been found in many cases to cause not only disorientation in whales, but actual internal injuries, in cases involving super-powerful USN types of active sonar. The Americans have never developed a shallow water ASW (anti-submarine warfare) capability, simply because their sonar sets are so overpowered. True, in the deep water ocean, there exists a requirement for a long-range sonar capability, certainly for vessels escorting a CBG (carrier battle group). Must these be used to their full potential in peacetime? If all the nations which are capable of fielding a serious submarine threat towards the US Naval assets played by the rules, no. But being realistic, that's not likely to happen anytime soon. As a brief asides, Fisheries and Oceans Canada does not dictate policy when it comes to matters affecting national security, or how our Navy conducts it's business. The Minister can make a case (as presented quite likely through the Marine Mammal Protection section of DFO - Pacific Region) for the judicious use of Canadian naval sensors, but we are not the ones who are in conflict with indiginous whale or orca populations here. This young lady is misquoting articles written with regards to US Naval units, who operate not only off the East and West Coasts of North America, but in oceans around the globe. They do not however operate in Puget Sound or the Juan de Fuca Straits, with their sonars blasting away.

Curbing pollution in our oceans is also a very worthy sentiment and a real emergency. No doubt it will shock this young lady to discover that there are many federal laws and regulations already in place (Fisheries Act, Species At Risk Act, Canada Shipping Act) and being enforced to accomplish this very aim. These laws however are only enforceable as far as our territorial waters' limits stretch. We do not own or hold sway over the Oceans. We regulate what happens along our coastal waters, that's about it... Oh yes, there is DFO's International Affairs section, but their involvement is rather limited.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada's International Affairs Directorate develops policies and coordinates relations and negotiations related to international fisheries management. The Directorate also carries out the following activities:

- provides Canada with benefits related to the transboundary and internationally managed fish stocks industry

- administers international treaties and agreements, such as the Pacific Salmon Treaty

- negotiates with international fisheries organizations, such as the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas

- participates in international forums on the conservation and protection of fish, including wild Pacific and Atlantic salmon

- oversees the resolution of disputes related to fisheries management and maritime boundaries.

So as you can plainly see, for as much as we can probably agree that time is running short for many marine species (and probably mankind as well...) and contrary to what our young N.K. believes, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has neither the office, nor the authority required to save all the whales, whether they be in our waters or not. Even those which are not whales. Lastly, I might suggest that she is currently behind the trends. For as much as our orcas deserve every protection we can afford them, the world's shark populations are in a far more perilous state. But then again, that is yet one more situation that neither the Minister nor his organization, can do anything about. Yes, Canada as a country can voice it's concerns to other world leaders, but all we can actually do is to care for the species which inhabit our waters.

Little N.K. opens by stating: "I don't care what it takes". This might have been better versed as: "I don't know what it takes...". Just so you know, little girl, what it takes is a world commitment to safeguard all marine species. As it stands now, the world is far more intent on it's commitment to clean the world's oceans of every living thing, in a bid to feed our world's ever-exploding population. We're talking Indonesia, China, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Russia... any one of the nations that fish illegally and/or wastefully, in the waters of other countries. Lastly, even countries that follow the established commercial fishing regulations of their respective governments, often cannot help avoid serious tonnages of by-catch. These are fish species which are unwittingly harvested along with other legitimately targeted species. They were simply at the "wrong place at the wrong time". The worldwide damage done by bottom-trawling alone, where the ocean floor is turned into a virtual moonscape, is something that our oceans may never recover from.

I admire this young female wanting to do something positive, but she really needs to take her blinders off and get educated. Learning about the oceans and the creatures that live in them, about how they are affected by what we as humans do, is the first concrete and positive step an individual can take towards making a difference. Chanting a slogan out of abject ignorance, simply to appear trendy or making preposterous demands out of hand to a government department, does nothing to further your cause nor the welfare of the creatures you claim you want to protect. You can't talk out of your ass if you want anyone to take you seriously.

Harper's office? They'll drop the delete button on her e-mail so fast it'll make her head swim. Why? This has nothing to do with the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada. And neither I might add, does the seal hunt.

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