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Friday, July 8, 2011

Tuna & swordfish endangered. What's Discovery Channel up to?

IUCN: Increased protection urgently needed for tunas

"For the first time, all species of scombrids (tunas, bonitos, mackerels and Spanish mackerels) and billfishes (swordfish and marlins) have been assessed for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Of the 61 known species, seven are classified in a threatened category, being at serious risk of extinction. Four species are listed as Near Threatened and nearly two-thirds have been placed in the Least Concern category."

Read the complete article.

Discovery Channel: Swords
Something related is what I don't get. Discovery Channel is all about nature, science and what man is achieving. Part of their network is Animal Planet. Creating awareness, sharing knowledge and providing beautiful pictures of nature. That's good. That's valuable.
Then there is Swords on Discovery Channel. Swords is a tv show like the Deadliest Catch.
"Swords enters the high risk world of New England's long line fishermen who risk all to catch an elusive prey - swordfish - in some of the most dangerous waters on the planet. They are uniformly tough and resilient and they need to be as every day could be their last."
Hero's. Real man. The danger. Risking their lives to catch a fierce swordfish or marlin. Awesome.
"Three species of billfishes are in threatened or Near Threatened categories: Blue Marlin (Makaira nigricans), Vulnerable; White Marlin (Kajikia albida), Vulnerable; and Striped Marlin (Kajikia audax), Near Threatened."
Do these guys fish on endangered species? And with what methods? That would be exactly the same as starting a tv show called Hunting Safari and rough men hunting endangered rhino's and going for a gorilla kill. And a panda on the side. Making a few kilometers of traps. Keep the animals you like (leopards), kill and discard the rest (aardvarks, some young lions, oryxes, chimps). That show would cause some controversy. Why does this show not cause so much controversy?

Discovery Channel dodges responsability a bit:
"Longline swordfishing is a controversial practice. The Swords program contains commentary, actions and opinions that do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Discovery Channel. Get the facts and explore both sides of the controversy below. Please note that this list is for informational purposes only."
It's like saying: no, we don't support The War, we condemn it, it's complicated, form your own opinion. But in the meantime making millions on broadcasting mass murders watched by a huge audience who want to see blood.

Well, is it really all that bad? Is it just bad sentiment and it's all just about the perception? Or are the fishermen in Swords just fishing non-threatened species? At least the perception could be that swordfish are threatened, so broadcasting a show that could be perceived as unethical. The truth might be that they don't fish on threatened or endangered specimen. But that could not necessarily be how the audience perceives it.

What are they fishing on?
At least the common Swordfish (Xiphias gladius). IUCN's Red List says it's Data Deficient, meaning they don't have enough data gathered to determine it's status. Can be both endangered or no problem at all. The US NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) mentions U.S. North Atlantic swordfish population levels are high and overfishing is not currently occurring on the stock. I hope they are right; the NOAA is part of the US Department of Commerce, so they have a keen interest in keeping the jobs of those fishermen and getting their taxes. Just bear in mind that governments still allow fishing for European Eel, though it is Critically Endangered. This means more endangered than the White Rhino or the Giant Panda and just as endangered as the Black Rhinoceros. Commerce wins from nature conservation apparently. I could not find a list of all species they fish on, so can't make a final conclusion.

Besides the fishing on potentially endangered or threatened swordfish and marlins, there is the practices. Fishing with long lines with many hooks. Catching all kind of creatures. What they don't like, they kill and discard. I won't go deep into that one, just read Kirstin Lamb's blog Swords: How Television is Glorifying Ecological Destruction. Bycatches of turtles (killes), vulnerable (IUCN Red List) Mako sharks caught, killed and thrown back. The list goes on and on. Illegal practices, wildlife atrocities. If the caught swords are legal, the rest is not.

I don't get it. What is Discovery Channel up to airing Swords? Take it off the air! If only for the public opinion and damage for the brand...

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