Scientists fear Canada will fish bluefin tuna and other species to extinction - thestar.com
Top marine scientists are denouncing Canada’s management of fish stocks as a commercially driven approach threatening to wipe out species at risk.
The attack comes from two senior members of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) — the body mandated by federal law to advise the government on species at risk.
They note the federal government has consistently refused to list several endangered fish under the Species at Risk Act, which would make their fishing or trade illegal. They include Atlantic cod, cusk and porbeagle shark.
During the act’s 10-year history, “there has not been a commercially exploited fish — assessed as endangered or threatened — that has been included on that list,” says Jeffrey Hutchings, a biology professor at Dalhousie University and member and former chair of COSEWIC.
Commercial interests always trump ecological ones, Hutchings charges. A stark example, he insists, is the porbeagle shark, whose population has declined by at least 85 per cent since the 1960s. It was assessed by COSEWIC as endangered in 2004. The government refused to list it as a species at risk because a handful of Canadians were fishing it.
Today, a dozen fishermen have licences to fish porbeagle in the Atlantic. No one used the licence to fish them this year and only one fisherman did so in each of the last two years. Yet Canada, which fishes more porbeagle than any other country, was roundly criticized last month for blocking a European proposal at an international conference that would have ended porbeagle fishing.
“Our (international) reputation is very poor,” says Alan Sinclair, a COSEWIC expert on fish populations who retired from the federal Department of Fisheries and oceans three years ago.
“We used to be a leader internationally in conservation and protecting our fish resources back in the 1970s and ’80s,” he adds. “Now people look at us and I’m sure they shake their heads and wonder what the heck is going on in Canada.”
Frustration hit a boiling point when Canada pushed for an increase in the bluefin tuna fishing quota at a meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in November. At the same time back home, the government was consulting Canadians on whether to list bluefin tuna as a species at risk, a process triggered by COSEWIC’s 2011 assessment of bluefin as “endangered.”...
CCAT will be setting up workshops with scientists and government officials to try to resolve what Scattolon calls the recruitment “conundrum.” Until then, critics say Canada should err on the side of caution.
In Canada, Hutchings doesn’t see stock management improving until Canadians become better informed about what he describes as a dire state of affairs.
“There are few if any political costs in this country to making bad ocean management decisions,” says Hutchings, who recently chaired the Royal Society of Canada’s expert panel on marine biodiversity. “If there were political costs, we wouldn’t see these types of decisions being made on an almost routine basis.”
A court in Saudi Arabia has decided to proceed with the prosecution of an online activist for apostasy, a charge which carries the death penalty, in what Amnesty International said is a new bid to stifle political and social debate.
On 22 December the General Court in Jeddah had Raif Badawi, 25, sign documents to enable his trial on apostasy charges to go ahead, after his case was passed to it by a District Court on 17 December.
Badawi – who founded “Saudi Arabian Liberals”, a website for political and social debate – has been in detention since June 2012 on charges including “setting up a website that undermines general security” and ridiculing Islamic religious figures.
Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.
“Even in Saudi Arabia where state repression is rife, it is beyond the pale to seek the death penalty for an activist whose only ‘crime’ was to enable social debate online,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty Internationals Middle East and North Africa Program.
“Raif Badawi’s trial for ‘apostasy’ is a clear case of intimidation against him and others who seek to engage in open debates about the issues that Saudi Arabians face in their daily lives. He is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Badawi’s trial began in June 2012 in a Jeddah District Court and was rife with irregularities.
According to his lawyer, the original trial judge was replaced by another judge who had previously advocated that Badawi be punished for apostasy. His lawyer has contested the judge’s impartiality in the case.
The charges against Badawi relate to a number of articles, including one he wrote about Valentine’s Day – the celebration of which is prohibited in Saudi Arabia.
He was accused of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s Commission on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice – also known as the religious police – in the conclusion of his article: “Congratulations to us for the Commission on the Promotion of Virtue for teaching us virtue and for its eagerness to ensure that all members of the Saudi public are among the people of paradise”.
The charges against Badawi also mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website – including one insinuating that the al-Imam Mohamed ibn Saud University had become “a den for terrorists”.
“Articles on Badawi’s website included references to individuals or institutions that some people might have found offensive, but charging him with criminal offences punishable by imprisonment or execution cannot be justified on any level,” said Luther.
“The Saudi Arabian authorities must end their intolerance of people peacefully exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression.”
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