Blueprint of a Sanctuary
"Blueprint of a Sactuary" is an AustralAsia magazine article by photojournalist Todd Essick (linked here as a Dive Photo Guide .pdf). It describes the behind-the-scenes activism regarding the Republic of Palau that defeated harmful legislation and ultimately resulted in the creation of the world's first national sanctuary for sharks -- an area of 237,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. My involvement is described in the second half of the article.
The positive outcome of this activism should serve as a hopeful example. It reveals how even a small number of determined individuals can make a significant contribution in combating the relentless predation upon the natural world.
*"Objection to Compact Review Claims" and its accompanying "Summary of Palau Bills" can be found in the "Commentary" category from the menu, above.
A Resounding Cry for Reason
"A Resounding Cry for Reason is Vital at CITES" is my Gulf Times editorial written as a participant at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the UN treaty between 175 nations which convened in Doha, Qatar. I utilized the Middle East media to broadcast why sharks urgently needed CITES protection. Distributed in English, French and Spanish, this preemptive article came out prior to the shark proposals to be voted on throughout the upcoming week.
In a critical proposal for a trade ban on the endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna, Japan orchestrated a fervent campaign to deny any protective status. Japan imports 80% of all bluefins, and has immense ultra-low temperature freezing capacity to store all they can buy. They're literally banking on this species' extinction, upon which their stockpile of bluefins will soar in value.
Japan and its compromised allies colluded with the Chinese-led delegations, flagrantly swapping votes to deny a trade ban for the bluefin tuna in return for Japan's coalition to vote against the protections for shark species. A similar corrupt maneuver took place between several African states and Japan, a trade of "my tuna for your elephant."
Despite overwhelming evidence supporting protection, not only the bluefins, but all proposed marine species were refused trade bans. At least two-thirds of the delegates invariably voted as Japan dictated regarding aquatic species. This profit-driven outcome was the complete opposite of what CITES was established to prevent.
On the night before the tuna vote, Dr. Sylvia Earle spoke to delegates at a Pew hosted event where awards were given for shark conservation. She emphasized the critical need to protect tunas, sharks, and all aquatic beings. Dr. Earle said: "We have 10 years, no more, it is happening right now in our time. If we do nothing and continue the way we are, it will be all over. More and more will simply vanish. And it will be our fault."
A Sea of Deceit and Capitulation
The following is the introduction by Carol Muske-Dukes to "A Sea of Deceit and Capitulation," a Huffington Post article I wrote in opposition to the Obama administration's shameful attempt to enable the resumption of commercial whaling:
"I'm taking a moment to bring you a statement of urgent import from an environmental activist, protector of international ocean wildlife -- who is making a profound plea to the Obama administration to reverse its cynical and cruel support of the lifting of the ban on commercial whaling -- a "bow" to Japan. Former Senator Barack Obama stated that "As president, I will ensure that the U.S. provides leadership in enforcing international wildlife protection agreements, including strengthening the international moratorium on international whaling. Allowing Japan to continue commercial whaling is unacceptable." Yet at the March intersessional IWC meeting, the Obama administration was the chief proponent in encouraging the plan to resume commercial whaling and is encouraging other nations to follow.
Come on. Political compromise (the kind derived from international debt pressure and lobbyists) has become the "theme" of this administration -- selling out on the unethical and indefensible butchering and barbaric torture of whaling, the murder of sentient beings -- is a kind of metaphor for what is happening to liberal ideals.
Here is a statement from Edward Dorson, Director of Conservation Strategies for the Shark Research Institute. Thank you for reading this and following up with a click on the link to the Shark Research Institute's Campaign to Prevent the Resumption of Commercial Whaling."
~ Carol Muske-Dukes is the Poet Laureate of California; Professor at the University of Southern California, Dept. of English/Creative Writing
A Victorious Veto in Palau
The veto of Palau's Senate Bill No. 8-50 was, in fact, the most important victory in the campaign to establish a true working sanctuary for Palau's waters and for the welfare of the islanders. Along with the UN declaration of Palau as the World's First Shark Sanctuary (which removed Palau's notorious Senate Bill No. 8-44 to legalize shark finning), Palau's President Toribiong shortly thereafter vetoed Senate Bill No. 8-50.
SB No. 8-50, introduced by the president's brother, Senator Joel Toribiong, would have prevented Palauans from receiving export tax revenue for fish catches along with assigning General Santos City in the Philippines as the new transshipment port (presently Palau's Malakal harbor in Koror).
Without tax collection incentive and with catches avoiding Palau's port, all Palauan regulatory oversight would have been removed, such as curtailing the taking of endangered species, stopping the overshoot of catch quotas and denying rampant shark fishing & finning.
SB No. 8-50 never came close to the worldwide attention received by SB No. 8-44. Palau's corrupt fishing concerns along with compromised politicians played a legislative shell game to make nearly everyone think the sole conservation victory was defeating the legalized finning sought by SB No. 8-44. They anticipated the massive outcry against SB No. 8-44, so profoundly detrimental to Palau's underwater oasis tourism image. It served as a slick diversion...once SB No. 8-44 got pulled; Sharks OK = Palau OK.
Meanwhile, Palauan fishing firms and their foreign counterparts were already granted several new licenses to fish Palau's EEZ. They were fully committed towards grabbing the most profit with tunas, sharks, and the live reef fish trade. Unabated exploitation, including finning, would have been assured with the stealthy passage of Senate Bill No. 8-50. SB No. 8-44 could be sacrificed without any real inconvenience to the exploiters.
Appeal to Veto Senate Bill No. 8-56
In tandem with my efforts to defeat Palau Senate Bills' No. 8-44 and 8-50, I targeted Senate Bill No. 8-56, a very detrimental bill which sought to allow open seasons for the taking and selling of Napoleon wrasse, Bumphead parrotfish, and several species of grouper. Along with decimating these critically threatened fish, this bill as law would have also severely undermined Palau’s pro-conservation image as the world’s first national shark sanctuary.
This link is from the Palau Visitor Authority's posting of my open letter urging Palau's President Johnson Toribiong to veto Senate Bill No. 8-56. My letter was also concurrently published by numerous marine conservation websites, Palau's Tia Belau newspaper and broadcast on the Oceania Television Network.
Due in large measure to the near instantaneous global response of caring people answering the call to endorse my stance as well as sending their own individual letters of protest to President Toribiong, Senate Bill No. 8-56 was vetoed on November 29, 2010.
Campaign to Prevent Commercial Whaling
Created to work in conjunction with the publication of "A Sea of Deceit and Capitulation" (above), this was my anti-whaling campaign to help defeat a U.S.-led plan that would have removed the worldwide ban on commercial whaling. The campaign is linked here as a .pdf download from the Shark Research Institute.
At the 2010 International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Morocco, the Obama administration took the lead in advancing a scheme to resume commercial whaling and urged compliance from other countries that were previously staunch allies of the whales.
The U.S. position was a drastic departure from then-Senator Barack Obama's campaign promise made on March 16, 2008, when he stated: "As president, I will ensure that the U.S. provides leadership in enforcing international wildlife protection agreements, including strengthening the international moratorium on commercial whaling. Allowing Japan to continue commercial whaling is unacceptable."
This sell-out on the world's whales was based solely on geopolitical manipulations and the U.S. debt obligation with Japan -- a scheme devoid of any scientific or ethical consideration.
This campaign achieved its goal in concert with scores of anti-whaling forces worldwide. The proponents of the IWC plan to resume commercial whaling were confronted with a torrent of opposition that ultimately defeated the pro-whaling ambitions of Japan, Norway, and Iceland.
Come Hell and High Water
"Come Hell and High Water: Last Call for a Living Ocean" is an article published in The Huffington Post (June 21, 2012).
Once I saw that the Rio+20 summit's position on the high seas was to ignore taking any action for at least another 3 years, I felt compelled to get this article out.
I believe the dismal failure of the UN summit in Rio de Janeiro should now be turned into a starting point for ever more serious action by a large coalition of result-driven individuals. All reasoning and caring people should take every measure to insure the ocean's future well-being. The outcome for the ocean is now solely in our hands, not the so-called leaders who remain blind to the immeasurable wealth that comes from nature left free from exploitation.
As described in my background sketch, I have a fine art background in sculpture that has served me well as an underwater photographer.
"Moai" is an example of my large scale outdoor sculpture, shown here in CultureNOW's "Museum Without Walls," a digital National Gallery of art and architecture in the public realm. This piece is on permanent display in New York City, located in the plaza at 160 East 65th Street -- the southwest corner of 65th St. and 3rd Ave.
Shark and Awe in the U.S. Senate
"Shark and Awe in the U.S. Senate" is a Huffington Post piece on the legislative mauling of the U.S. Shark Conservation Act. With this article, I sought action to stop political maneuvering from killing the vitally needed Shark Conservation Act.
These excerpts from the opening and closing paragraphs serve as a brief description of this travesty and what I asked people to do:
"The U.S. Shark Conservation Act of 2010, a bill that offered a critical lifeline for sharks, has recently been blocked by a dysfunctional U.S. Senate. If not rapidly passed, the Act will have no purpose once sharks hit their impending point of no return. Resurrecting this legislation is urgently needed for both the preservation of sharks and our nation's fading conservation ethos."
"The U.S. Shark Conservation Act of 2010 is urgently needed, but corruption, ignorance, and political maneuvering has now precluded wise action by our Senate. People don't have to remain idle while the Senate stagnates. Citizens should write or fax their senators and demand they reintroduce and pass the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 (S. 850) at the next session of Congress along with rejecting the arcane filibuster and "hold" procedures that are strangling it. We mustn't bow to any destructive tradition, be it for soup or senators."
Thousands of personalized protests were sent in to keep this bill alive. The U.S. Shark Conservation Act was finally passed on 12/22/10, the last day of the lame duck session of the 111th Congress. This marked a substantial victory for the oceans, for ourselves, and for future generations.
Sharks -- A Multiplex of Crisis & Hope
This article in PangeaSeed, an international grassroots organization founded in Japan, begins by introducing the enduring stigma of "Jaws" upon the public psyche:
"How is it that a movie made in 1976 continues to traumatize viewers worldwide while forever stereotyping and demonizing sharks? Peter Benchley’s fictional story and Steven Spielberg’s movie adaptation of a mammoth man-eating shark that stalks innocent humans as they enjoy a leisurely summer swim has led the world to subscribe to the philosophy that the only good shark is a dead shark."
"A Multiplex of Crisis & Hope" presents real life accounts that help make the case for the preservation of sharks. It takes the form of several vignettes, each with a subtitle suitable for the marquee of a multiplex theater.
The last of these, "Shark Wars Episode 4: A New Hope," describes the creation of the world’s first national shark sanctuary in Palau. While this account of the sanctuary's creation is described with a very broad brush, the article adds a welcome insight to the critical importance of the sanctuary's role in creating a new movement for shark conservation:
"Since the declaration of the sanctuary, the decision has rippled through coastal and island communities around the world and has been instrumental toward the recent global movement to protect sharks. Within the last year similar declarations and legislation to protect sharks have occurred in the Maldives, Honduras, Indonesia and Hawaii. And most recently in January in the United States, President Obama signed into effect The Shark Conservation Act of 2010 which will stiffen the ban and close loopholes in existing shark finning laws. Note that similar legislation just became a law in Saipan, Guam and Washington state. As one of the world’s leading advocates for shark preservation, Palau is paving the way for what could become the global blueprint for protecting the marine environment."
Stop the Harvest of Goliath Grouper
This article comes from Dive Photo Guide. It presented a bogus proposal by sport fishing and spearfishing groups in Florida to enable the hooking and spearing of 800 Goliath Groupers over a 2 year period for the purpose of "scientific research."
My petition letter (at the bottom of the article) revealed this scheme's similarity to Japan's deceitful use of the International Whaling Commission's scientific research loophole in order to justify their wanton slaughter of whales. The attempt to slaughter these endangered Goliaths was ultimately denied by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The Ocean Reglitterized
"The Ocean Reglitterized" was a recent exhibition of over 30 of my images shown at the Pelham Art Center throughout September and October of 2011. The exhibit was accompanied with my marine conservation message, "Staring at the Edge of the Abyss," in the "Commentary" category in the menu above.