How do we get out of this mess?

Boating NZ - - Editor’s Note -

Igen­er­ally try to main­tain a happy, pos­i­tive out­look on life, but three, seem­ingly un­re­lated events un­set­tled my equi­lib­rium this week leav­ing me feel­ing more than a lit­tle de­spon­dent about our planet’s fu­ture. The first was the killing of an ex­tremely rare blue whale – a se­ri­ously en­dan­gered species – by an Ice­landic whaling crew. The In­ter­na­tional Whaling Com­mis­sion out­lawed the killing of blue whales in the 1960s. This was re­port­edly the first blue whale har­pooned in half a cen­tury.

Ice­land, you will re­mem­ber, is one of only three na­tions still in­volved with com­mer­cial whaling – along with Nor­way and Ja­pan. Ice­land’s whaling leg­is­la­tion per­mits the killing of fin whales (also an en­dan­gered species – bizarre, I know).

Re­spond­ing to mount­ing global out­rage, Ice­land’s whaling in­dus­try has of­fered a few lame rea­sons/ex­cuses about why the blue was killed: it was an ac­ci­dent; they thought it was a fin whale; it was dif­fi­cult to iden­tify; it was a ‘hy­brid’ fin/blue (as if that some­how mit­i­gates the act).

In one of odd­est bits of irony sur­round­ing the fi­asco, Ice­land ac­tively pro­motes its whale tourism in­dus­try. No, I don’t un­der­stand it ei­ther.

The sec­ond dis­qui­et­ing event was a just-re­leased bian­nual re­port from the United Na­tions, pro­vid­ing a de­tailed ‘snap­shot’ of the world’s fish­ing and aqua­cul­ture in­dus­tries. The full doc­u­ment is about 170 pages – I’ve pro­vided a pré­cis on page 42. It’s not happy read­ing – and peer­ing through the gloom, the prog­no­sis doesn’t look good.

The third event was the top­pling of a Cap­tain Cook mon­u­ment in the Coro­man­del. Af­ter a del­uge of bi­b­li­cal pro­por­tions, com­bined with a king tide, the Mer­cury Bay mon­u­ment sighed its last and ca­pit­u­lated, sur­ren­der­ing to se­vere ero­sion.

Cook’s ship En­deav­our an­chored in Mer­cury Bay in 1769. It ap­pears the mon­u­ment – erected in 1969 to cel­e­brate the bi­cen­te­nary of the visit – will be re­cov­ered and mounted in a safer place, one less ex­posed to Na­ture’s tantrums. But I’m more con­cerned about the sub-text here.

Did the mon­u­ment’s ar­chi­tects – around 50 years ago – con­sider its orig­i­nal place­ment to be ‘risky’? I’m guess­ing not. But like ev­ery­one else liv­ing around the planet’s coastal ar­eas, the haunt­ing spec­tre of global warm­ing/ris­ing sea level has sud­denly be­come all too real.

In­di­vid­u­ally, the de­ceased whale, the fish­eries and the Cook mon­u­ment are small, ran­dom in­ci­dents on the global stage – but col­lec­tively I fear they are warn­ing mark­ers car­ry­ing a sin­is­ter mes­sage.

Happy boat­ing.

Lawrence Schäf­fler Edi­tor

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