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Norway's Cod overfishing problem


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#1 Snappy

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 03:29 AM

Hope you don't mind me taking this discussion on a slight sidetrack from sharkfins and Chinese, but overfishing is a global problem and I thought perhpas you'd find it interesting to know what is going on in our waters.

I'd like to share some pictures relating to the problems of protecting the oceans. I went on a two week trip with the Norwegian coastguard as they try to protect the Arctic waters north of Norway from overfishing. They are well equipped, as opposed to their Mozambican counterparts, yet they are struggling to catch and deter eco-criminals trying to empy the seas. Illegal fishing (or overfishing) in these waters is a billion dollar industry, mainly run by Russian mafia but vessels frequently caught are also Portugeese, as well as other nationalities. Poor coordination allow for these boats to dock with their illegal catch right under the noses of authorities in many European countries, including the UK.

The worlds' last stock of cod is under threat. Perhaps not as photogenic as sharks, the cod is hugely important and should be protected too. In addition, and incredibly, politicians every year allow for higher quotas of cod to be caught legally than the scientists tell them is sustainably. Indeed a study finds we could be all out of fish all together in 50 years...: http://news.bbc.co.u...ure/6108414.stm

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#2 anthp

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 02:04 PM

Fascinating story Fredrik and amazing work on the pictures. It must have been a real challenge nailing compositions like those while fighting the chill and the splashes! Well done! I really enjoyed looking through the images and the message of the article has real merit. Congratulations on a job well done.
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#3 Rocha

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 02:25 PM

This is also a good example to open our eyes to the real threat we suffer, if we can't protect a species from overfishing in developed Europe how are we going to do it in island nations of the Pacific?

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#4 Snappy

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 03:08 AM

It must have been a real challenge nailing compositions like those while fighting the chill and the splashes!


Thanks for the positive feedback on my work, Anthony. I can tell you that by far the most difficult part of it all was climbing slippery rope ladders in rough seas, sometimes in poor light. A couple of times I thought I was going in the drink for sure!

It was sad to see how many fishermen (and their companies) now seem only to think of short term profit, with a disregard for the next genereation. One of the coastguard inspectors told me he personally thought the ocean would be instantly plundered empty almost over night if the fishing industry were given the chance.

It appears quotas, monitoring (they also use landbased radar and planes in addition to coastguard vessels) and law enforcement (in the form of big, armed vessels) is at least preventing it from happening over night.. Which I suppose, Luiz, is badly needed in the Pacific too.
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#5 wagsy

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 04:42 AM

Great pics there Fredrik.

Sad to hear...it's not looking good for the oceans.....maybe the illegal ships should be sunk there and then...that would send the message out...

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#6 Snappy

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 02:21 PM

Great pics there Fredrik.

Sad to hear...it's not looking good for the oceans.....maybe the illegal ships should be sunk there and then...that would send the message out...

How long cold you survive in the water if you fell in?


1) again, thanks!
2) yeah, gun boat diplomacy has been exercised in these waters before: iceland and norway came to blows over fishing rights 30 years or so ago, and the coastguard rammed that watson guy's boat - sea shepard- at one point. Oh, and last year a russian trawler kidnapped two inspectors and took them to russia before releasing them! So messages are being sent left and right here!
3) I was wearing a suit (like the inspectors) so i would last long enough to be picked up (but I would be very cold on hands and head!) , but without one (like many of the fisher men) one would die within a couple of minutes.

Some guys, tougher than me, still chose to get a diploma for taking a dip in the Arctic!

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#7 Paul Kay

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 03:21 AM

Nice pix, interesting story, but all too familiar theme!

I have been told that some trawlers deliberately trash unknown Lophellia reefs (protected cold water corals) if they find them - to prevent them being assessed and given official status and protection. If you want a sadder illustration of short-termism in fisheries it would be hard to find! In the UK we have lots of good intentions (so it appears from what out politicians tell us) but little enforcable action is ever taken and when it is, it lacks teeth. I'm interested in what you say about the Russian Mafia as I wouldn't mind betting that organised crime has its fingers in other fisheries too (from what I have heard) - ignore the rules and they can be very lucrative.
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#8 Snappy

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 03:37 AM

I'm interested in what you say about the Russian Mafia as I wouldn't mind betting that organised crime has its fingers in other fisheries too (from what I have heard) - ignore the rules and they can be very lucrative.


No doubt organized crime is involved elsewhere, considering the amount of money involved. The reason the Norwegian government spend so much military/police resources on this is becuse it is our second most valuable resource/product, only our oil/gas is more valuable.

I think the UK public would be surprised to know to what extent their beloved fish'n'chips is funding criminals, Russian in particular.;) In Portugal it is the bacalao that is creating the demand. I was hoping the story that went with my pictures, aptly named "Fishy business" would find some interest through my UK agent, but no luck so far. :rolleyes:
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#9 EspenRekdal

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 06:15 AM

Nice pix, interesting story, but all too familiar theme!

I have been told that some trawlers deliberately trash unknown Lophellia reefs (protected cold water corals) if they find them - to prevent them being assessed and given official status and protection.


Never heard that version Paul, but here is one that is quite well known here in Norway. Lophelia reefs attract a lot of fish. Problem is trawling around them and You'll snag your travl and you will potentially loose valuable equipment. The solution has been to run heavy tackle over the reef destroying it and reducing the risk of snagging. Then directly after they will rund the trawl it self and sweep up what is there. Problem is this is as stupid as it gets not only biologically but also financially.

The reefs gone the fish don't come back and they lack spawning and rearing grounds for new generations. Basically a quick buck wins...

Things are changeing slowly and more reefs are being protected, so I'm carefully hopefull for the future of the reefs. My biggest scare is climate change...

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#10 Paul Kay

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 08:33 AM

Hi Espen

You say "Things are changeing slowly and more reefs are being protected" which is of course good positive news but here in the UK its all TALK as resources are simply not put into protecting what are after all very difficult places to police. In fact the current flavour of the month is to achieve voluntary agreements - which are notorious for not working and as they have no penalties for infringment, when they do fail we are back to square one. Fisheries remain exploitation of the world's last truely wild food resource. With proper management they could be an extremely useful and valuable future resource but this will take both international agreement AND policing. As underwater photographers we need to do our bit to highlight the plight of fishery impact - pix of discarded nets, reef damage, etc anr very powerful when used correctly.
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#11 Drew

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 08:47 AM

2) yeah, gun boat diplomacy has been exercised in these waters before: iceland and norway came to blows over fishing rights 30 years or so ago, and the coastguard rammed that watson guy's boat - sea shepard- at one point. Oh, and last year a russian trawler kidnapped two inspectors and took them to russia before releasing them! So messages are being sent left and right here!


The Sea Shepard incident was vastly different. They were trying to shadow the whaling boats. They were not confronting or stealing anything but just making sure the Norwegian whaling boats didn't kill any whales which are still deemed illegal by the IWC.
The Norwegian government sent a boat to stop the Whales Forever. Since the Whales Forever stayed out of the 12 mile limit of Norwegian waters, the Coast Guard finally rammed the Whales Forever and also planted depth charges to sink the boat, none of which worked. No formal charges for filed for that incident.
Watson and DiStefano were charged in absentia for an earlier act of sabotage on a whaler boat.

Not to pick on Norway, but just the facts on the case. I am ,of course, against whaling. :rolleyes:

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#12 Snappy

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 01:11 PM

The Sea Shepard incident was vastly different. They were trying to shadow the whaling boats. They were not confronting or stealing anything but just making sure the Norwegian whaling boats didn't kill any whales which are still deemed illegal by the IWC.
The Norwegian government sent a boat to stop the Whales Forever. Since the Whales Forever stayed out of the 12 mile limit of Norwegian waters, the Coast Guard finally rammed the Whales Forever and also planted depth charges to sink the boat, none of which worked. No formal charges for filed for that incident.
Watson and DiStefano were charged in absentia for an earlier act of sabotage on a whaler boat.

Not to pick on Norway, but just the facts on the case. I am ,of course, against whaling. :D


This is a sidetrack but what the heck! here goes.. :rolleyes:

As for the facts of the Whales Forever incident: they are disputed. To put it mildly..

I did not mean to suggest Watson & Co were stealing. However I think it is safe to say they were "confronting". That's their SOP, after all.

Nevertheless, I simply meant to say Norwegian authorities do use force when they feel they need to protect their territory or resources, one way or another. That said; from my experience (including interviewing officers who took part when inspector were kidnapped by a russian trawler) I am convinced they will do their utmost to solve their mission without anybody getting hurt.

In the Watson incident I belive the claim that the Coastguard were aiming to "sink" the boat is grossly exaggerated. It would be even worse PR than the whaling itself to actually sink a civilian ship over the issue.
Depht charges (normally used agains subs, and they were not "planted" – how would that be possible with the two vessels zig-zagging across the North Sea?? ) are good to throw up water and scare people with. But if they wanted to sink the vessel, the Coastguard would simply need to fire a single round (cold - ei. non explosive , as used against Islandic fishing boats some decades ago..) from their gun, aiming below the water line.

Sea Shepard on the other hand has claimed responisbility for several sinking attempts of Norwegian whaling ships, claiming to use former SEALs for this sort of operation. Painting Sea Shepard as an organization that innocently "shadow " whaling boats is not telling the entire story.

Not wanting to pick on the US, but imagine someone caught sinking any kind of vessels in US ports these days, for whatever reason (and having recieved military training no less) they'd end up Gitmo before they could spell "until proven guilty"! ;)

I am too (of course ,being vegetarian and all), against whaling.

Now, attempting to get back on track: don't eat cod either!
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#13 Drew

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 02:46 PM

This is a sidetrack but what the heck! here goes.. :rolleyes:

As for the facts of the Whales Forever incident: they are disputed. To put it mildly..

I did not mean to suggest Watson & Co were stealing. However I think it is safe to say they were "confronting". That's their SOP, after all.

Nevertheless, I simply meant to say Norwegian authorities do use force when they feel they need to protect their territory or resources, one way or another. That said; from my experience (including interviewing officers who took part when inspector were kidnapped by a russian trawler) I am convinced they will do their utmost to solve their mission without anybody getting hurt.

In the Watson incident I belive the claim that the Coastguard were aiming to "sink" the boat is grossly exaggerated. It would be even worse PR than the whaling itself to actually sink a civilian ship over the issue.
Depht charges (normally used agains subs, and they were not "planted" – how would that be possible with the two vessels zig-zagging across the North Sea?? ) are good to throw up water and scare people with. But if they wanted to sink the vessel, the Coastguard would simply need to fire a single round (cold - ei. non explosive , as used against Islandic fishing boats some decades ago..) from their gun, aiming below the water line.

Sea Shepard on the other hand has claimed responisbility for several sinking attempts of Norwegian whaling ships, claiming to use former SEALs for this sort of operation. Painting Sea Shepard as an organization that innocently "shadow " whaling boats is not telling the entire story.

Not wanting to pick on the US, but imagine someone caught sinking any kind of vessels in US ports these days, for whatever reason (and having recieved military training no less) they'd end up Gitmo before they could spell "until proven guilty"! ;)

I am too (of course ,being vegetarian and all), against whaling.

Now, attempting to get back on track: don't eat cod either!


Snappy conservation isn't about just one or 2 species, as you said yourself, destructive fishing practices (which ALL countries are/were guilty of) is worldwide and real.
As for the Whales Forever incident, I actually saw the video uncut (yes I was seashepard too :D and the released version is a bit more shrewdly cut to sell SS's position as victim). While I could not determine if the destroyer intentionally rammed the whales forever, it was clear it headed straight for the center of the boat,probably as a scare tactic that went wrong. They did fire warning shots across the bow as well. It was on TV too.
The point is precisely that governments will take action to protect their resources. However, they tend to also accede to voters (fishermen corporations/unions) and really don't manage resources according to science but re-election prospects. A friend was sitting on Air Solomon going to Honiara with the Minister of Fishery and chatted about the sale of dolphins and japanese tuna and sardine factories, fishing rights etc. The Minister said flatly, "give me an industry that will rival the income the Solomons can get from selling their resources and I'll stop it right away."
In short, seafood is a big business, and illegal fishermen want in on that money. But sometimes even countries do it indirectly (while not supporting illegal activities directly), they do turn a blind eye to their fishing vote base and continue to subsidize them.
Deep sea trawling for example is still not banned because nations like Spain, Iceland, Canada and Japan profit from it. The unforunate truth is that the human race has reduced everything to $ or €, even human lives.

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#14 EspenRekdal

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 02:47 PM

They were not confronting or stealing anything but just making sure the Norwegian whaling boats didn't kill any whales which are still deemed illegal by the IWC.


First let it be known. I'm dead against whaling. (I also try to aviod cod and other fish decimated by out of control political fish management.)

Regarding the whaling issue. Last I heard the ban on whaling Minke whales (the one Norway hunts) is on it's way back into being leagal. Biologically the population is big enough to sustain a small catch. Good and bad.... It would have been helpful to argue that they are in critically low numbers.
Contrary to public opinion there is very little financial gain by hunting whales.

Personally, being Norwegian and all, I think Watson and others create more problems and clogg the prosess of stopping whaling. Norwegians are'nt that fond of whaling, but every time Watson waves his flag and does some stunt to a whaling wessel the opinion here is turned against him and the issue. Idiotic stunts trying to tell us what to do with John Wayne antics make us stand tough togeather. Watson might get more people oposed to whaling in the US (and certainly more money in the bank) but he doesn't get any closer to fixing the problem.
Now if these organisations would actually try to influence the Norwegian people in a educational way they might actually get public opinion against whaling and actually get somewhere. Like most of the western world Norway is a democracy and only Norwegians can change policy. Maybe then it would be smart to put ones effort where it counts?

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#15 Rocha

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 03:30 PM

Now if these organisations would actually try to influence the Norwegian people in a educational way they might actually get public opinion against whaling and actually get somewhere. Like most of the western world Norway is a democracy and only Norwegians can change policy. Maybe then it would be smart to put ones effort where it counts?

Espen :rolleyes:


Good one Espen, I am 100% with you. I really hate the imperialistic attitude of "we know what is best for you". I am also for sustainable fishing (and sustainable harvesting of any other animals for that matter). The other day I had an argument with a vegetarian (nothing against them, but again, I really hate when they come with the "we know what is best for you" attitude), he was trying to convince me that by being a carnivore I was causing more impact in nature than if I was a vegetarian, by "clearing forest to plant grass for the cattle". Oh well, if we all turn vegetarians we will have to clear the forest to plant lettuce, aren't we? ;)

I think the biggest problem that humanity faces is overpopulation. Seriously, everyone has to eat, and food (regardless if it is plant or animal) has to come from somewhere. It is very easy to sustainably feed 100 people, but 10 billion? If the world's population continues to grow with the present rate there won't be many natural resources left in a hundred years or so...

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#16 Snappy

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 04:34 PM

if we all turn vegetarians we will have to clear the forest to plant lettuce, aren't we? :)

No, not quite.... I will NOT tell you how to live your life, or turn this cod-thread into a veggie sermon, BUT if you are concerned with overpopulation and lack of resources consider this fact (eh..if I remember correctly. :rolleyes: ) : it takes approx. four times as much land for meat production (grazing land) as it does to produce the same amount of vegetarian food. In other words one can feed 4x as many people on the same amount of land, if all choose to eat veggie. Or feed the same amount of people as before on 1/4 of the land. And leave the rest for nature reserves or whatever you like. Wikipedia has collected some interesting facts and numbers on the issue: http://en.wikipedia....l_vegetarianism

That is of course unrealistic to hope for, but as with all consumption, be it of food or petrol, not to mention FISH (in this case cod), if we all cut back a little... I'm just one guy Drew, so I pick a few species and issues. I don't manage keep track of, or cover, all the misery in the world. As much as I try...

Steering back into the North Sea, I think Espen is quite right regarding Watsons stunts and public opinion. Most people would be happy, I think, to have the whalers stop shooting and rather take tourist out to see these animals. They'd probably make more money too. But when Watson puts on his act most people have a whale burger just for spite, suddenly we're all 10 years old vikings! Argghh :D

But lets go for tourism. Oh darn, then we'd have more tourists ;) The worlds biggest industry and airtravel being a real baddie for CO2 emissions :o It aint easy being eco friendly!!

I figured you for a seashepard or similar :D Drew, not having any website or other blatant selfpromotion on your profile, unlike the rest of us pixelpushers :(
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#17 Drew

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 08:53 PM

First let it be known. I'm dead against whaling. (I also try to aviod cod and other fish decimated by out of control political fish management.)
That's always nice to hear that people make an effort.
Regarding the whaling issue. Last I heard the ban on whaling Minke whales (the one Norway hunts) is on it's way back into being leagal. Biologically the population is big enough to sustain a small catch. Good and bad.... It would have been helpful to argue that they are in critically low numbers.
Contrary to public opinion there is very little financial gain by hunting whales.
Well the issue was ]that even since the moratorium was in effect in 1986, countries like Norway, Iceland and Japan continued to hunt them. Japan caught 50 a year under the pretence of scientific study. Norway on the other hand just set their own quotas (about 300 a year I believe). Even Clinton while smoking his 'cigar' said sanctions should be fetted against Norway for that breach. Yet no country ever did because every country is guilty of a bit of breaching international law. My question is, if it's not profitable, has to be subsidized and only kept alive because a thousand odd people need employment, why?
Personally, being Norwegian and all, I think Watson and others create more problems and clogg the prosess of stopping whaling. Norwegians are'nt that fond of whaling, but every time Watson waves his flag and does some stunt to a whaling wessel the opinion here is turned against him and the issue. Idiotic stunts trying to tell us what to do with John Wayne antics make us stand tough togeather. Watson might get more people oposed to whaling in the US (and certainly more money in the bank) but he doesn't get any closer to fixing the problem.
I have nothing against Norwegians. In fact I even had a norwegian girlfriend :rolleyes: who, like you, was nationalistic about the whole whaling issue. But this isn't about Norway's resources. The whales travel all along the sea, so it's not an exclusive Norwegian possession, unlike your oil and gas production. What Paul Watson does is brash and crude, yet for all his antagonizing and confrontational tactics, Galapagos would not be Galapagos if Sea Shepherds didn't fight to keep the fishing boats away. Also the success of the antipoaching cooperations with Trinidad, Indonesia, Costa Rica and of course Ecuador. Do the ends justify the means? No. But strong arm tactics work. The Japanese and Norwegians flex their economic power to buy enough votes in the IWC to start whaling again. It's good to have checks and balances. I can tell you as a former sea shepherd member, the fishermen are not the sit and talk kind of people either, almost understandable since someone is messing with their ricebowl.

Snappy, I do all that everyone else does (or aspires to) on wetpixel. I just don't advertise it ;) Btw I'm a Green Peace member now. And am primarily vegetarian. As Luiz says, sustainability with minimal impact is the ultimate goal. However, it's not likely with the population growth and general indifference to the plight.
Which goes back to education. How many Norwegians care about the population of the minkes? Or the Japanese? Or Icelanders? They rally to nationalist pride against the intruders but the plight of the whales are left to politicians to deal with? How many Russian Mafia boats know that the cod supply is dwindling? Everyone of them... that's why they want their share of the loot before it's gone. It's an all too common human response.

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#18 Rocha

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 11:41 PM

No, not quite.... I will NOT tell you how to live your life, or turn this cod-thread into a veggie sermon, BUT if you are concerned with overpopulation and lack of resources consider this fact (eh..if I remember correctly. :rolleyes: ) : it takes approx. four times as much land for meat production (grazing land) as it does to produce the same amount of vegetarian food. In other words one can feed 4x as many people on the same amount of land, if all choose to eat veggie. Or feed the same amount of people as before on 1/4 of the land. And leave the rest for nature reserves or whatever you like. Wikipedia has collected some interesting facts and numbers on the issue: http://en.wikipedia....l_vegetarianism


Hi Snappy,

Thanks for the reply, the Wikipedia article was very informative, but all of their conclusions in the article above are based on current (and careless) methods of production in developed countries (mainly the US), which due to winters and such have to actually feed the cattle with grain that could be turned into human food.

I should have been more specific on my message, but the discussion I had with my friend was specifically related to deforestation in South America (and other developing countries), and here is what Wikipedia has to say about this in the same article:

"The result is that producing animal-based food is typically much less efficient than the harvesting of grains, vegetables, legumes, seeds and fruits, though this might not be largely true for animal husbandry in the developing world where factory farming is almost non existent making animal based food much more sustainable."

They also don't say 4 times more land is required, what they say is that it takes 4 times more energy, mainly because places like the US feed the cattle with grains that we could be consuming. The #1 cause of deforestation in South America (and other areas of the world) is still clearing for unsustainable agricultural practices.

But leaving the statistics aside, and to avoid going to too far off topic (but I think I already did) my point is that either way we go (vegetarian or not) the practices have to be sustainable for a long term, and currently they are not (vegetarian or not). Could you imagine how much more farm land we would need if say 10% of the world population (or half a billion people) decided to eat only greens? I may be wrong, but I think it would be a lot...

Now, to finish up, the good thing about being a vegetarian (among other, of course) is that 99% of the vegetarians are well educated people that actually care about the environment (because they are well educated, not because they are vegetarian). And what we are concluding in this and other threads is that the best environmental protection comes trhough education...

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#19 photovan

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 12:53 AM

Now if these organisations would actually try to influence the Norwegian people in a educational way they might actually get public opinion against whaling and actually get somewhere.
Espen


There are many approaches required to acheive the outcomes that the oceans deserve. Education alone will not work, in the same confrontation alone would not work. For many years the uneasy "team" of confrontational Greenpeace and conservative WWF did a pretty good job. Greenpeace raised awareness with stunts, WWF followed up with good policy work and negotiation. Now that Greenpeace has become less confrontational, that awareness-raising void needs to be filled by someone else.

Sure the Nationals of a country that someone like Paul Watson annoys won't be happy, but as stated elsewhere by many others he does what he does not to placate fishers or whalers or whale burger eaters, but to create headlines around the world, which he seems to be able to do very well. It's naive to think that a country not put under the international spotlight would do anything at all to change its ways. But please, I could be swayed by examples, if anyone has some. Its just the way of the World.

After the spotlighting, its up to the likes of WWF, IFAW and other more specialist groups to show the face of co-operative conservation, and work on policy outcomes and educational programs. Until they do, Mr Watson and friends will continue to go around making a point.

Edited by photovan, 31 December 2006 - 12:55 AM.

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#20 Snappy

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 03:12 AM

They also don't say 4 times more land is required, what they say is that it takes 4 times more energy, ..

I should apparently point out my 4x example wasn't from Wikipedia. Those were different statistics, and just because they contain the number 4 doesn't mean one cancels out the other. If you want to read even more statistics the wwweb is full of them, I found this article interesting: http://www.goveg.com/environment.asp

Could you imagine how much more farm land we would need if say 10% of the world population (or half a billion people) decided to eat only greens? I may be wrong, but I think it would be a lot...

Yes, you got it wrong! That was exactly my point: if half a billion stopped eating meat we would NOT need as much land to make food as we do today. In fact we would need only 1/4 of the land we are using today! At the moment land is being used both to grow the greens we eat and (mainly) to make food for the animals. Because we don't eat as much as a big cow (At least I don't , the Americans may ;) – a 1300 pound (US) cow eats 30 pounds of hay per day – according to Ohio State University stats), we would not need so much space for agriculture.


When we are talking about impacting the environment there are sooooo much to consider, beyond land or sea area size. There are bi-products, employment (or lack there of), security, water, pollution etc etc etc :rolleyes:

Rocha, I am not very concerned with animal husbandry in developed countries. It is mainly White Middle age Dudes (WMDs) like myself that are responsible for the detoriation of our planet.

That said, and getting back on fish-track: if you ever find your self on the beach in Africa, check the size of the holes of the net of the local fishermen. The big trawlers may get the big fish out at sea, but often the locals are so desperate they use super fine nets that hardly even lets the water through. So they empty the sea for baby fish (what are they really called??) that seeks shelter in shallow water.


So I think work is needed in both the "developed" world as well as the in the majority world.

I am pretty sure we are mostly on the same page here. Our list of what comes first differs slightly , thats all.
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