We discuss and comment on the role agriculture will play in the containment of the CO2 problem and address protocols for terraforming the planet Earth.
A model farm template is imagined as the central methodology. A broad range of timely science news and other topics of interest are commented on.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Shark Fin Hunt Empties West Africa
Whatever one may think of the ethics of harvesting sharks that simply do
not reproduce quickly, it is also apparent that regulation is utterly unable to
halt fishing piracy even in coastal waters lacking robust enforcement. Here we observe that the wild fishery is
totally collapsing and leaving the exploiters soon without an income.
Fishery conservation not presently practiced in far too many places and we
get stories like this where a foreign fleet can arrive and strip mine a whole
region and then depart. It really just
has to run its course I suspect, as unpleasant as that is. We did it to the buffalo and we are now
restoring the herds and will ultimately even restore them in Central
asia were they were destroyed in prehistory.
So while I remain disgusted, I also understand that restoration under
properly managed circumstances is practical.
I see more hope in finding the consumers turning away from the product. Sometimes this is ill advised, but here that
is not the case.
Fisherman's gold: Shark fin hunt
empties west African seas
Retired fisherman Sada
Fall is upbeat. His two sons are returning from sea with a boatload of
"gold", as he calls shark fins, whose value has near-obliterated the
ocean's top predator in these seas.
Fall, 62, walks along
the beach in this fishing village
in the north of Senegal,
his blue-grey boubou flapping in the dry, dusty wind, a bright red flowered
umbrella shielding him from the scorching sun.
"This is the
great shark cemetery," he says waving his hand dramatically across the
beach where dried hunks of shark meat are piled up, filling the air with a
musty, acrid odour as suffocating as the heat.
pirogues line the beach where children play and sheep wander around. A giant
pelican is curiously tethered to one of the crumbling houses.
Saint Louis is one of the biggest shark landing sites in Senegal
and one of scores along the west African coast where the predator is quickly
Fall's sons have been
gone for two weeks deep into Mauritanian waters for a voyage which, including
food, water, fuel and salt to pack the fish, can cost more than 500,000 CFA
fishermen on is the insatiable Asian appetite for shark fins, which make their
way onto ostentatious dinner tables in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.
"The fins don't
stay here, they are worth a lot of money," says Fall.
He explains that when
a boat lands, amidst the chaos of bartering and buying shark meat to be dried,
smoked and sold in the region, the fins are swept away by intermediaries to
Dakar, and treated very carefully.
"The fins are
gold, sometimes we keep them in our own living room - with the air conditioning
on," he laughs.
the intermediaries will meet with Asian businessmen in a Dakar hotel to hand over the booty.
Carrefour joins shark fin boycott in Singapore
Singapore (AFP) Jan 7, 2012 -
French retail giant Carrefour will halt sales of shark fin products in its
Singapore outlets after current stocks run out as a supermarket boycott of the
delicacy gains steam, media reported Saturday.
Carrefour spokesman told the Straits Times it will not replenish its stocks of
the environmentally controversial products after they sell out.
company is the world's second-largest retailer and operates two supermarkets in
told the paper the decision was made on its own initiative as a socially
responsible retailer, but it could not be reached for comment on whether the
ban would extend to its other outlets worldwide.
fin remains a sought after delicacy in Singapore, where it is largely
served at Chinese festive celebrations and wedding receptions.
to the conservation group WWF, the city-state is the world's second largest
shark fin trading centre after Hong Kong.
Kong says the consumption of shark fins is a driving factor behind the threat
to shark populations, with more than 180 species considered threatened in 2010
compared to only 15 in 1996.
Carrefour report came a day after Singapore's largest supermarket
chain NTUC FairPrice declared it was halting sales of shark fin products.
FairPrice -- a cooperative run by the city-state's national trades union --
said it would drop the products from April after an inflammatory comment by one
of its suppliers attracted a flurry of complaints.
supplier had said "Screw the divers!" in an online promotional
message for a new product to be launched at FairPrice outlets during the
upcoming Lunar New Year.
comment, apparently directed at divers campaigning against the shark fin trade,
went viral on Facebook and microblogging site Twitter.
Retailer Cold Storage was the first Singapore chain to stop selling
shark fin, which it did in September last year as part of a collaboration with
WWF, local media reported.
"You bring the
bags, go into the hotel, hand over the bag, they hand over the money."
Mika Diop, a biologist
and coordinator of the Sharks sub-regional Action Plan (SRPOA-Sharks) says that
depending on the size and species of the fin involved, they sell for up to
100,000 CFA (150 euros) per kilogram (2.2 pounds).
But it is the men
further up the chain who benefit the most, as many fishermen don't realise
exactly how valuable their product is. Some restaurants charge more than $100
for a bowl of sharp fin soup.
"We catch them,
but I couldn't afford a small bowl of soup," says Fall.
-- 'Mercenary mindset'
Many fins are also
exported fraudulently through normal channels classified as dried fish, says
In West Africa, shark
fishing began in the 1970's, booming in the nineties due to rising demand from
Asia for shark fins, according to a report entitled "30 Years of Shark Fishing
in West Africa" co-authored by Diop in 2011.
Since 2003, shark
catches have plummeted. This is not good news but a sign that there are less to
These days fishermen
can spend up to 20 days at sea, heading as far west as Cape Verde or south to
Sierra Leone in search of their gold, with what Diop bemoans as an often
Diop explains that
sharks are particularly vulnerable because it can take more than 10 years for
them to reach sexual maturity and their fertility rate is very low, making
recovery from overfishing all year round near impossible.
"On average the
weight of the fin represents only two percent of the total weight of the
animal, so you can see the massacre needed to keep up with the demand for shark
fins," he tells AFP.
In Saint Louis, Fall finally gets a phone call
from his pirogue. Days of bad weather have hampered fishing and even the good
days have yielded no sharks. The boat is now expected the following day.
A fisherman for more
than 30 years, he has seen first hand the worrying drop in shark numbers.
"We are obliged
to catch small sharks. We know its not good but if one person doesn't, the next
"It brings in a
lot of money, so we don't see the importance of the shark. We earn and we will
keep on earning until the sharks disappear," he says sadly.
The shark fishing report talks
of days when hammerhead sharks up to six metres long (20 feet) and one-tonne
sawfish were caught in these waters.
The sawfish -- printed
on the back of Senegalese bank notes -- hasn't been seen since the early 1990s
in coastal waters from Mauritania
to Sierra Leone, except for Guinea-Bissau.
According to the
report, the value of sharks landed annually in 2008 in Senegal, Gambia,
Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Sierra
Leone and Cape
Verde is estimated at 8.5 million euros ($11
Diop's shark project has
published an identification guide for fishermen and has helped west African
nations put legislation in place, most importantly to ban "finning".
this legislation is still in the pipeline.
Finning is the
practice of cutting of the shark fin while at sea, and tossing the rest of the
shark back into the ocean to face a cruel death by suffocation or blood loss.
Despite the laws, it still continues.
If shark-hunting, in Senegal and the
world over, is not brought under control, Diop and other experts predict dire
results for a marine ecosystem regulated by the predator for some 400 million
A report by the Pew
Environment Group in June 2011 estimates some 73 million sharks are caught
annually and 30 percent of species are threatened with extinction.
The fisherman Sada
Fall becomes anxious and harder to get hold of. The "big shark guy around
here" -- his distributor -- has left back to Dakar after hearing the fishing trip has
not gone well.
Three days after the
boat was supposed to land it reaches shore just after midnight. With no sharks
caught, it quickly refuels and heads out again for several more gruelling, and
expensive, days in search of fisherman's gold.