I became interested in the environment way back when David Suzuki first started talking about environmental issues, and so it's natural that my in box gets filled with emails from environmental and social causes on a daily basis.
I lately received one such email asking for my signature on a petition demanding that Canada join the international consensus and agree to ban porbeagle shark fishing.
I don't sign every petition I get, but I had never heard of the porbeagle shark, and so I decided to take a read.
It appears the porbeagle shark is one of the most endangered sharks in the Atlantic Ocean, having lost 88 per cent of its population in Canadian waters. As 47 countries plan support a proposal to ban fishing for the porbeagle, you'll never guess who the only holdout country is: yes, once again, Canada.
We can now brag that we are the only country on the Atlantic ocean directly targeting the porbeagle shark for its meat and fins.
Curious about what possible rationale our federal government would have for taking such an isolationist position, particularly in light of the recent push to ban shark finning for soup, I looked into the economics of porbeagle fishing in Canada. Economics is, after all, the one and only measurement that Prime Minister Stephen Harper uses to guide his decision-making process.
Sure enough, there it was. In all its sad, rational glory. It turns out that, for an annual loss to the east coast fishery (at last count, seven fishermen get a small part of their annual income from fishing this endangered shark) of $50,000 and an anticipated cost to police a regulation that would ban it of $50,000_ for a grand total of $100,000 per year, our government is prepared to allow fishing for this endangered species in our waters, which is where most are caught.
The following was cut and pasted from the described documents:
From NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Species of Concern report January 24, 2011:
"In 2006, the Canadian government decided not to list the porbeagle shark under SARA (Species At Risk Act) due to the economic impact of a listing, both on the commercial fishing industry and on the government who would never have to expend over $50,000 annually in monitoring funds (Canada Gazette 2006)"
From the Canada Research Chair in Ecological Economics Dr. Murray Rudd to the Canadian Wildlife Service at Environment Canada on July 10, 2006:
"The continual decline in porbeagle shark fishing participation (down to 7 participants in 2004) is partly due to regulatory change but also is symptomatic of the marginal profitability of the fishery. Exploratory shark fishers themselves acknowledge that the fishery cannot sustain more than about a half dozen porbeagle fishers because of the poor economics of porbeagle fishing. Marginal profitability for directed shark fishers means that the NPV of the fishery will be at the low end of the range. That is, in current dollars, the porbeagle shark fishery is likely worth less than $50,000 per year in producer surplus."
This example of small-mindedness is almost beyond belief. From the closure of the Polar Environmental Atmospheric Research Laboratory in Nunavut to save $1.5 million, to the cutting of 60 scientists from the ozone monitoring program in the high arctic that supplies valuable scientific data to the rest of the world's scientists, to the closure of the Experimental Lakes freshwater research station in Northern Ontario to save about $2.6 million annually, which also supplies valuable and very prized data to the world's scientific community, this government has displayed a reckless abandon for the future of this country and the world in exchange for short-term economic and political gain.
Once again, I can't wait to see this government sent packing, and I hope the NDP crucify them in the next election. With any luck, they'll be feeling like the U.S. Republicans are feeling now, come the next election. I, for one, will be working very hard and investing a lot of resources to make that happen.
If there's anything left of Canada by then.
Marshall Neuman, Langley