EARTHRACE LAUNCHES ‘BE OCEAN RESPONSIBLE’ CAMPAIGN ON WORLD RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL DAY
LOOK BEFORE YOU BOOK
Phrases like ‘responsible travel’ and ‘ethical tourism’ are increasingly used by the travel trade and media. Traveling ‘ethically’ more usually refers issues such as our carbon footprint or supporting local enterprises, and this year, water consumption was on the agenda on World Responsible Tourism Day…but not a mention of conserving the oceans.http://www.wtmresponsibletourism.com/Content/Wednesday-6th-Nov-2013.
If and when ‘wildlife conservation’ is talked about, it’s more usually confined to land-based animals and rarely includes marine life. When it comes to checking a destination’s record regarding its treatment of the oceans, few people probably bother to find out any facts – good or bad – before making a final decision and booking their ticket. With the oceans covering 70% of the Earth’s surface and being critical to our own survival, we all have a responsibility to take care of them.
There are good things happening. Not everywhere is drowning in a sea of indifference. Some Governments are listening to the experts and taking action, media are reporting more stories about bad marine management and practices. Widespread public opinion is turning against hunting of marine mammals, captivity and other exploitation of ocean species and habitat. Some airlines and shipping lines are refusing to transport shark fins or marine mammals for the captivity trade, and the practice of removing fins at sea and throwing the shark back still alive is being banned increasingly around the world (although almost every country in the world still has a hand in perpetuating the shark fin trade itself).
Some countries though are still proactively enabling actions and activities that are truly reprehensible and indefensible. We believe that we should all think much harder – look before we book – when deciding where to go and what to do when we get there.
Three countries, Iceland, Norway and Japan, persist in commercial whaling despite a moratorium introduced by the International Whaling Commission. Iceland actively encourages tourists to eat whale meat (while only an estimated 5% of Icelanders still do so). The largest Norwegian whaler actively publicised using whale oil to fuel his boats. Japan insists its own whaling operations are ‘scientific’ in nature, thereby exploiting a legal loophole which is currently being challenged through the International Court of Justice by Australia and New Zealand. The three countries trade whale meat between each other breaking a world-wide trade ban introduced by CITES.
The practice of dolphin drives, where pods are driven into coves and killed, is still happening in Japan and in the Faroe Islands (where the hunt is known as a grindagrap). Despite proven high levels of mercury and other toxins in all large marine animals, in the Faroe Islands while it is illegal to sell it without a special license, meat is distributed free to everyone involved. Japan sells the meat commercially, sometimes subsidising it for schools, and using it in ‘luxury’ dog food.
Empty the tanks
Japan has the highest number of whale and dolphin entertainment parks in the world, and is one of the largest International traders in wild-caught dolphins for the entertainment industry, along with Russia. The United States has over 400 dolphins, 39 belugas and 22 orcas in captivity – more than anywhere else in the world.
Monster marine mistakes
Monster shark fishing tournaments (some of which target endangered sharks like Thresher and Porbeagle) are big business in the United States. Resident seal colonies like that in La Jolla, CA, are unprotected from all the harassment by beach goers, scuba-divers and swimmers , while elsewhere, licenses are granted to shoot sea lions alleged to be interfering with fisheries. In Scotland, licenses are granted to shoot seals which allegedly interfere with salmon farms.
Fates are sealed
Canada continues to hunt seals commercially, setting a quota for 2013 of 408,200 Harp and Hooded seals. Over 90,000 pups were killed this year. In Namibia, sealers are allowed to club up to 86,000 Cape Fur seal pups and 6,000 bulls from a local population that Namibia itself says only numbers around 100,000. It’s the largest legal wildlife hunt in Africa. The East is one of the largest markets for seal products, which are used as ineffective sex aids and ’medicines’. WWF has just presented Namibia with a #Gift to the Earth’ award for for exceptional conservation achievements which are a role model to the world. And yet the seal hunt continues.http://worldwildlife.org/stories/namibia-s-sustainable-tourism-success
In New Zealand, two species of indigenous dolphin are critically endangered. Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins (of which there are only an estimated 54 left in the world), are threatened by illegal fishing, by-catch and boat strike. Despite this, the New Zealand Government is so far refusing to act on expert and public opinion and have yet to introduce effective or appropriate protection. New Zealand has no laws prohibiting shark finning, and is actively pursuing the introduction of deep sea oil exploration whilst signing away its right to compensation and clean up costs in the event of accidental oil spills. https://www.facebook.com/StopKaikouraOilDrilling
Sharks in the soup
Around 100m sharks are killed every year. Indonesia catches and trades the largest quantity, followed by India with Spain in third place. The United Kingdom (which recently rejected 75% of proposed marine protection areas around its own coast) is also in the top 20, fourth largest in Europe after France and Portugal.
In Peru, around 15,000 dolphins are killed by fishermen and used as shark bait. Thanks to the efforts of conservationists, consumption of shark fin soup is reducing world-wide including in China and Hong Kong. However, both countries are still responsible for the majority of demand. http://www.tgsci.org, www.sharksavers.org, www.bluevoice.org,
Wildlife conservation upside down
In Australia, it’s still legal to hunt almost fifty endangered, indigenous species. This includes all six species of sea turtle, dugong, various shark species, rock wallabies, and koala. Conservationists want the Australian government to change the Native Title Act 1993 and introduce an immediate ban on hunting of any animal, land or marine based, listed as being under threat.
Industrial expansion, in particular plans for coal ports, is threatening habitats, including one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, the Great Barrier Reef, home to thousands of unique types of marine life.
You can help by making informed choices and being an advocate for ocean responsible travel.
Tweet travel companies and official tourist boards, ask questions and send them your messages #Beoceanresponsible #Lookb4ubook.
OCEAN RESPONSIBLE CHECK-IN
Before you make your booking
Check your airline—ask if it’s one of those that have pledged not to transport shark fins or whales and dolphins for entertainment parks
Don’t buy a ticket to any captive whale or dolphin show, or to swim with any marine mammals—stop the profits, stop the shows
Pack re-usable shopping bags and drink containers. Pledge not to buy any plastic bottles while traveling
Check recycling facilities in your hotel, guest house, marina or on your cruise ship
Google your chosen destination. Check it has ocean responsible National and local policies in place like marine protection zones, shark fin policies and sea turtle protection for example
Find out what issues local conservation and wildlife charities are working on—you may be able to help while you’re there if you contact them in advance
While you’re away
Don’t buy any goods or souvenirs that exploit marine and other wildlife
Eat sustainable seafood, preferably locally caught. Please don’t eat food from the ocean like whale, dolphin, sea turtle, blue fin tuna, dugong or shark (especially in shark fin soup), as it perpetuates trade in these meats
Whale and dolphin watching operators – make sure they are reputable and know the rules. No wake, pod splitting, feeding, noise, touching, overstays (15-20 min maximum). Minimum distance 100m for whales; 50m for dolphins (200m if
another boat is nearby)
If cage diving or swimming with sharks, don’t allow chumming or feeding, check operator licenses are current, and always follow their rules
Don’t leave any litter anywhere and don’t ever throw anything away in the water
And finally, again, don’t buy a ticket to any captive whale or dolphin show, or to swim with any marine mammals—stop the profits, stop the shows!