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Recent reports underscore developed world’s moral obligations on overfishing, climate

by Mike Gaworecki

October 14, 2009

When we caught the Japanese ship Koyu Maru 3 illegally fishing in Cook Islands waters, I made the point that their actions were not just illegal but immoral. I thought I’d write a little bit more on that, as well as the moral obligations of the developed world to deal with issues like overfishing and climate change — issues that developed nations are overwhelmingly responsible for creating.

Stolen Fish copyright Paul Hilton/Greenpeace
September 02, 2009 – Activists from the Esperanza display banners alongside a Taiwanese fishing vessel that was illegally transferring fish to another vessel in the Western Pacific Ocean. The transfer of fish at sea is one of the methods used around the world to cover up illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU or pirate) fishing activities. © Greenpeace/Paul Hilton

Last week, The Commonwealth released a report written by 26 scientists and academics that underscores the drastic need for government action on overfishing and climate change in order to stave off a collapse of global fisheries. The report warns that the oceans could soon become as barren as deserts and goes on to say:

The study reveals that those least responsible for the state of the oceans are most likely to suffer the consequences of poor management and climate change. Small island states in particular are vulnerable to illegal and unfair fishing by foreign fleets and to migration of fish away from warming seas.

The Esperanza has been in the Pacific region since May to support Pacific Island countries on issues ranging from climate change to fisheries collapse and marine conservation (read more here and here).

But of course Greenpeace’s history in the Pacific Ocean goes back much further than that — all the way back to the early 1970s when we were protesting the French nuclear blasts at Moruroa. The fallout from these blasts also disproportionately affected those Pacific islanders living downwind from the blast sites — another instance of those not responsible for a problem suffering the most. While there was nothing technically illegal about these blasts, the total disregard for human health and welfare only highlights how egregiously immoral they were.

The industrialized commercial fishing vessels that are literally stealing fish from Pacific island nations’ waters is just another example of the developed world doing as they please and disregarding the well-being of the people affected by their actions. That’s why it’s very encouraging that eight Pacific island nations have come together and are standing up for their rights against the invading international commercial fishing fleets.

Pacific island states are not the only developing nations that are banding together to force the developed world to live up to their moral obligations: “Africa will demand billions of dollars in compensation from rich polluting nations at a UN climate summit for the harm caused by global warming on the continent, African officials said Sunday.”

Lest we doubt that there is any need for this stand by African nations, even the World Bank, which has not historically been known as a good friend to the developing world (Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine documents ample evidence of this assertion), is warning of the threats those nations are facing as the climate crisis looms: “The World Bank estimates that the developing world will suffer about 80 percent of the damage of climate change despite accounting for only around one third of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

So the real question we must be asking ourselves is: Will the developed world stand up and do the right thing in regard to these moral obligations?

Greenpeace released the “America’s Share of the Climate Crisis: A State-By-State Carbon Footprint” report back in May to highlight the United States’ responsibility for leading the world’s efforts to stop global warming given our outsized role in creating the problem.

Sign our petition to President Obama letting him know that Americans expect world leaders to agree to a climate deal that is ambitious, fair and binding this December in Copenhagen.

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