29 June, 2008

Hot Tuna

This is the third installment of Hominids, the unedited version of the award winning article by Patrick Schwarz, founder and managing director of Scuba Seraya Resort in Tulamben (Bali - Indonesia). Recently Patrick was defined as a ‘harmonist’ who can win converts to the environmental cause, not from fear or misplaced sentiments, but on the premise of care, passion and compassion. I could not agree more with that!!

As someone of stature within the environmental and underwater journalistic circles put it: "It’s one of those articles that provokes the mind not into urbane or fashionable environmentalism, but the essence of ecology and the environment. We don’t need more elitist environmentalist whose actions only heighten the sentiments within their group; it does not win converts. In fact it loses them."

The edited version of Patrick's article will appear to start with in the October issue of the Ocean Geographic Journal by the Ocean Geographic Society which is well worth checking out regardless. Worth considering subscription at the Premier level to have exclusive invites to OG's expeditions and events!!!

Hot Tuna:

The world’s Tuna population is now so precariously low that I wonder when the day will come I will have to replace a favourite on our menu, Tuna fish sandwich, with jelly fish sandwich, as available catches keep diminishing. The Pacific Blue Fin Tuna is fast disappearing. It is probably extinct in the Atlantic by now. Even Japans fisheries department had to admit that they overdid it and cut catching quotas in the Pacific by half. Catches now primarily consist of Yellow Fin Tuna.
Antara, the official Indonesian news agency, recently released the following to the press: Bali province earned a total of USD 52.3mio from Tuna exports in the January-November period 2007, a 56% increase against the corresponding period of 2006. The value of Tuna exports during the first 11 month of 2006 stood at USD 33.5mio. The total volume in 2007 was 15,871 tons, up 75% from 9,064 tons the previous year. Bali is exporting its Tuna to China, Japan, the United States and Taiwan. Good news for Bali, then, it has a growing Tuna export industry, right? Wrong! What that report really says is this: Having seen some of the catches at Bali’s Benoa harbour (an awesome sight by the way) I would estimate that the average fish weighs in at approximately 30kg. In other words, while I was diving in the seas surrounding Bali getting all excited about occasional Tuna encounters (a really awesome sight) during 2006
and 2007, a staggering 830,000 of those marvellous creatures have been tricked and plucked out of surrounding waters, never to reproduce again. A small processing plant at Benoa harbour employs perhaps 200 workers earning IDR 800,000 (USD 90.00) a month. Even considering the fishermen’s income, the cost of boat charters, rentals, logistics, administration, overheads, taxes and levies, less than 5% of the export value remains with the Bali people. The price in the USA for yellow fin Tuna loins at present is around USD 34.00kg. Assuming Bali’s Tuna are all yellow fin and 35% goes to waste in the form of heads, bones, innards and fins, this corresponds to 7 to 8 times the export value, roughly USD 375mio if all 15,871 tons are sold at US market prices.
Bali’s Tuna exports are relatively small. Indonesia’s richest fishing grounds and probably the richest in the world, are in the Moluccas. Stunningly beautiful, tiny Kay Islands, a small archipelago in the Banda Sea, mere speckles in an azure sea surrounded by blindingly white sandy beaches, west of the Aru Islands (the natural habitat of the birds of paradise) is probably one of the remotest corners in the world imaginable that time seems to have all but forgotten. Yet it is now a base for a huge Thai fishing fleet, complete with docks, processing plants, cold storage, the works. It is all but a matter of time until these waters will be depleted just like the Gulf of Thailand. The value of fish caught in these waters goes into the billions, of which only the tiniest fraction benefits the Indonesian people, with the exception of course of those in the government that issue fishing permits. Where is Corporate Social Responsibility in the fishing industry?

To be Continued........

All pictures appearing in this post were taken by Marco Gorin whom retain copyrights.

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