The International Writers Magazine: 21st Century - Saving Our
world is plagued with environmentalists and non-governmental agencies
dedicated to safeguarding the worlds natural resources.
They range from protecting humanity from nuclear waste dumping
in remote areas of the planet, to saving fauna and flora in danger
of extinction caused by a variety of human assassins. Every country
has either a handful of its own homebred bunch or is host to the
headquarters of worldwide and now famous multinational organisations
dedicated to the subject matter. Such is the case of Greenpeace,
one of the most notorious safe- guarders of this sun-revolving
This outfit was
founded some thirty years ago in British Columbia to protest against
US nuclear testing in a remote area of Alaska known as Amchitka Island.
Although they were a small bunch of nature enthusiasts daring to stand
up to America at the height of the Cold War in the nuclear arms
race, they did stir a nerve amongst other ecological activists scattered
around the world. They soon grew in strength and despite a loose system
of administration and acting in the pursuit of a wide range of safeguards
of the planet, they are world famous for their consistency as well as
their bizarre method of attracting attention. In 1985, they caused an
international stir when their flagship Rainbow Warrior was
blown out of the water in Auckland Harbour, New Zealand. The ship was
due to sail to Morura Atoll to protest, once again against underwater
nuclear weapons testing, this time by France when some unknown divers
placed a couple of bombs under its hull. The culprits turned out to
be French spies and consequently that countrys Minister of Defence
as well as the Head of Intelligence was forced to resign. Despite the
tragedy and loss of the ship, it served as yet another example of Greenpeaces
ironic successes in worldwide publicity highlighting otherwise undisclosed
earthly destruction projects around the world. They are also quite mad.
Their volunteers, as most of them are, will go to extremes to prove
a point. They will climb large buildings in the centre of whatever countrys
capital is causing the pollution of the day to place large
enough signs for all to see. They will dress up as endangered species
to parade in front of offending government buildings or drive around
with loudspeakers raising local enthusiasm whilst stopping traffic and
causing a rumpus. Their exploits on the ocean waves are even more notorious.
Their daring pranks have included steering small inflatable crafts between
harpooning whalers protesting against the destruction of whales or diving
on industrial pipes dumping toxic waste to plug the exit valves. All
their efforts have always been described as direct and non-violent.
They may border on the fringe of both national and international law
but they do achieve one goal. The international media is always there
to support their cause. After all, publicity is publicity and it sells
television time and newspapers. It also means money. But this time they
went too far.
International exploitation of the worlds fishing grounds has always
been a controversial issue. It has caused numerous legal battles not
to mention aggressive fighting amongst trawlers and other vessels of
different nationalities as to who has the right to where and how to
fish. For time immemorial, most countries that rely on fishing as part
of their GDP have always taken advantage of the loose rules
that ride the ocean waves to hammer away at those innocent preys lying
below the surface. I have written in Hacks before on this issue so that
there is no need to expand on the whole gambit involving this industry.
There is one point, however that should be made and that is the constant
fight between technology and existing legislation. Aggressive fishing
countries such as Spain are usually one step ahead of the law when either
new methods of catching fish, or new species are discovered before the
International Protection Forum has had a chance to evaluate the consequences
of the same. Such is the case of the use of a method known as bottom
trawling. This system drags a long net on the ocean bed several
miles long and when it is hauled in, the catch looks more like an overflowing
supper market shopping trolley than a specific bundle of known and catalogued
fish. The United Nations is presently studying the methodology. This
is where Greenpeace tends to lose patience, come to the rescue of the
planet and blow the whistle, so to speak! This time though, they may
have overstepped their mark.
Entry in Captains log, M.V. Esperanza, Saturday November 13th.
2004. Its 10pm, in the middle of the North Atlantic.
Im sitting in the campaign office, just behind the bridge, still
wrapped in layers of thermal gear, as Ive spent six hours in an
inflatable. But while Im sitting here, in relative comfort three
of our guys are on board a Lithuanian-flagged bottom trawler, the Anuva.
Its going to be a long night. The Esperanza is Greenpeaces
new trouble-making vessel and the Anuva is a fishing vessel
based in Vigo, Spain. What they did in effect was board a vessel in
high seas, without permission, and broke one of the most traditional
of maritime laws. They became fishing pirates. As usual, all hell broke
Lets examine both sides of the argument before ending with the
mayhem that ensued after the event.
Most scientific research has yet to conclude whether long-term damage
is done to thousands of square miles of ocean bed habitat due to bottom
trawling. In fact, Dr. Ron ODor, Chief Scientist conducting a
10 year project of the Census of Marine Life said recently in Washington,
were just skimming the surface. We know something about
the first 100m but we know almost nothing about what lies down in the
deep. The fishermen on the other hand take advantage of this lack
of knowledge and go about their business insisting that they are not
breaking any law. They also stress that they only trawl on sandy bottoms.
The environmentalists argue that they are destroying corral reefs and
all sorts of other ocean wildlife still unknown and unclassified by
the scientific institutions. That is why Greenpeace could not wait and
took the law into its own hands.
Conclusion in the Captains log, MV Esperanza. The occupation
of the ship went on for more that 24 hours. In a dramatic conclusion
to this action, the vessels captain turned fire hoses on our activists
and threw several overboard. Once the crew were back on board,
the activists took an incredible decision. They set their course towards
the port of Vigo to supposedly hold a press conference and explain the
reason for their actions, thus sailing into the sharks mouth!
They were greeted by fishermen, trade unionists, government dignitaries,
port authorities, civil guards, police and hundreds of other angry citizens
of the city. They were pelted at with eggs, tomatoes and all sorts of
other garbage. Although they were protected to a certain degree from
the obvious local outrage, the President of the Port suggested politely
that they leave, as he could not guarantee their safety. They pulled
up anchor and sailed away as soon as possible. They did however, achieve
their objective. International press coverage ensued.
So, once again as in most of my essays, I ask the question, who
is right and who is wrong. Environmentalists like Greenpeace form
part of the watchdog system that draw public attention to the constant
damage that is being done to our planet by the various commercial and
political entities around the world. Their methods are daring, bizarre,
comical and often border on lawlessness. Yet if it were not for the
likes of these intrepid individuals we may never have achieved a Kyoto
accord. On the other hand, the fishing fleets around the world have
a right to pursue their trade whilst they comply with existing international
In a nutshell, both are right and both are wrong. Until organisations
like the United Nations, the World Wild Watch and the plethora of independent
scientific institutions around the world concerned about the environment
do not come up with a proper solution to the correct methodology of
deep ocean fishing, the likes of Anuva will continue to
ravish the bottom of the sea and Greenpeace will carry on pestering
© James Skinner. December 2004.
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