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Barbaric practices – both legal and illegal - continue around the world.
They are carried out in the name of research (Japan); indigenous, aboriginal or subsistence hunting (dugongs and sea turtles in Australia, sea turtles in the Caribbean, pilot whales in the Faroe Islands, whaling in Greenland); under the spurious excuse of 'protection of fisheries' (such as the Namibian seal harvest), or as openly commercial (whaling in Norway and Iceland; dolphin drives in Japan, seal cull in Canada).
These hunts result in the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of individual marine animals. Many of the species affected are globally recognised as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable to extinction, and each single individual that dies adversely affects the smooth working of our marine eco-systems just that little bit more.
It is an archaic belief that the oceans ‘belong’ to the human race and that therefore everything in them can be utilised for financial gain or our own survival with little thought to the impact on other species and the entire marine eco-system.
Man’s inhumanity to marine life
Despite assurances by various ‘regulatory bodies’ like the International Whaling Commission and various sealers’ associations and Government departments, which maintain a great deal of research has gone into ensuring that killing methods are ‘humane’, there is plenty of evidence to show that it is nothing of the sort.
In the Solomon Islands, Peru and Japan, pods of dolphins and whales are herded into coves of shallow water and stabbed with hooks and spears, with the hunters often dragging the mammals wounded but alive into their boats. Some of the ‘lucky ones’ are kept alive, to be sold for enormous sums to aquariums and marine parks around the world to help ‘educate’ the public about our oceans (see more about Captivity http://new.earthrace.net/captivity).
Shark hunters kill between 70-100 million sharks a year, 90% of them for fins alone. They remove the fins and discard still live sharks back into the oceans, defenseless, to drown or be eaten by other predators.
Whilst some are undoubtedly being taken by organised gangs of poachers, much of the impact is from those with legal permission to hunt them in certain waters. Trade in fins is still legal across the world, perpetuating the pressure on shark populations. No species on earth can survive that kind of battering – it’s simply not sustainable.
There is hope though. All over the world, people and organisations are lobbying Governments to make changes in laws to protect sharks and stop the trade in fins. And every little bit of extra pressure counts. So if nothing else, sign petitions wherever and whenever you can. You can find a useful list of current petitions on Sharks About http://www.sharkabout.com/it/component/content/article/131-sharks-petiti...
Earthrace supports The Global Shark Conservation Initiative (TGSCI), a collective of concerned individuals and organisations that work to protect sharks https://www.facebook.com/TGSCI?ref=ts&fref=ts and http://tgsci.org/.
Their fates are sealed
In Newfoundland, the Quebec North Shore and the Magdalen Islands in Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans sets the Total Allowable Catches (TAC) and quota for the seal hunters each year. In 2011, 400,000 animals are in the firing line – the highest figure since 1971.
Namibia is the only country in the Cape fur seal’s habitat range to allow commercial hunting. The annual seal hunt is endorsed by the Namibian Government and takes place each year between July and November. This year (2011) an estimated 85,000 pups and around 5,000 bulls were destined to die - the pups clubbed and the bulls shot.
Profit is made from the seals’ skins, fur and meat, with certain body parts being sold for ‘traditional medicines’ and aphrodisiacs in the Far East.
In 1994 and 2000, there were catastrophic natural deaths amongst the Namibian Cape fur seal populations, and according to Humane Society International, there continues to be an annual 30% mortality rate for pups within the first few weeks after birth. And yet the quotas go on rising and the beaches continue to be stained red until the bulldozers come in to ‘beautify’ them in preparation for the tourists. Read more here about our campaign in Namibia. http://new.earthrace.net/namibia
Indigenous and traditional hunting
Just because something has been happening for many hundreds (or in some cases, thousands) of years, doesn’t mean it should be perpetuated. No-one should be allowed the right to inflict cruelty and risk the survival of entire species, regardless of their ancestry or heritage.
At the International Whaling Commission in 2010, Greenland got the green light to resume whaling under the auspices of ‘aboriginal’ whaling rights. The resumption of hunting of humpbacks, albeit with a voluntary reduction to ten from Greenland’s original request for almost double that number, is not to feed the starving people of Greenland. The whale meat will be sold for profit, making this a blatantly commercial whaling enterprise. There may be around 20,000 humpbacks now, but what of the future if money is to be made and the quotas begin to rise?
In the Faroe Islands, up to 1,000 pilot whales are slaughtered, driven into bays, and the meat and blubber then distributed around the local communities involved in the grindagraps or 'grinds'. This is not food that they require for survival. True, it may be difficult to farm livestock or edible crops on land in sufficient quantities, but the Faroe Islands has an extremely healthy fishing industry and is a major exporter of fish to the rest of the world. They are not a poor country and people there enjoy a very good quality of life and a vast array of imported food stuffs which they can readily afford. Read more about our campaign in the Faroe Islands
Dugongs – going, going, gone
One of Australia’s most recognisable natural assets – the dugong – is listed as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN Red List in many of its habitats. But the hunting of this gentle grazer remains legal under the Native Title Act relating to aboriginal rights in several Australian States, most notably Queensland.
Whilst the elders have self-governed the levels of dugong hunting in the past and have kept the populations relatively healthy, it is clear that they are no longer just being hunted for subsistence alone. Poaching for profit has become widespread. Some politicians are working with concerned organisations (like http://dugongandturtles.webs.com) to stop the hunting altogether. But talk is cheap, and the Australian Government needs to take action now because as long as dugong meat has a price commercially, their future survival is at risk.
Now you sea turtles, now you don’t
Every one of the six (or possibly seven, depending on which expert you talk to) species of sea turtle is at risk of extinction. Often traveling hundreds of miles around the oceans, with females returning to the same coastlines each year to lay their eggs, sea turtles are the passive victims of by-catch all over the world and are still legally hunted in some countries, including Australia, South America and some countries in the Caribbean. This practice has to stop. It is self-defeating even for those claiming indigenous rights to continue hunting any sea turtle - they are dying out already but hunting is speeding up the process.
There is some good news for sea turtles though. The Government of Trinidad has agreed to introduce legislation that will ban the hunting of sea turtles outright. This is expected to become law later this year, and is in part down to a visit Earthrace made to Trinidad in February 2011 to meet with a powerful local group, the Trini Eco Warriors who campaign for sea turtles and many other conservation issues across Trinidad. You can read more about what we did in Trinidad here, including the story of Bobbo, the rescued sea turtle. http://new.earthrace.net/turtles-trinidad