Pirates be good for fish, arrrrrr

somali pirates
The Somali pirate hysteria of last spring equated the pirates with terrorists, and that was that. It was basically Case Closed in the public mind.

You would have had to seek out non-mainstream media outlets (Democracy Now, for instance) to see any real attempt to explain the pirates’ motivation. For most Americans, it was simple: inexplicable malice. EEE-VUHL. Just like the terrorists.

But if you paid attention to the Democracy Now reports, you would have known that the pirates originally emerged as a response to illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste.

Not defending pirates, you understand, but there has been an upside to all of this.  Thanks to pirate paranoia, the fishing off the east coast of Africa appears to have improved. According to an AP report:

In past years, illegal commercial trawlers parked off Somalia’s coast and scooped up the ocean’s contents. Now, fishermen on the northern coast of neighboring Kenya say, the trawlers are not coming because of pirates.

“There is a lot of fish now, there is plenty of fish. There is more fish than people can actually use because the international fishermen have been scared away by the pirates,” said Athman Seif, the director of the Malindi Marine Association.

… Before the pirates came out in big numbers, fishing longliners roamed the coasts, Lawrence Brown said, laying out miles (kilometers) of line.

“They kill everything from the bottom of the ocean to the boat. They run at 22 knots. They can lay their lines for 24 hours, pick them up and get out of there,” he said…..

With at least one famously apocalyptic estimate from a few years back seeing countless marine species in danger of collapse by 2048, and with giant jellyfish crowding out other marine life in the sea of Japan, drastic measures might be called for to restore the world’s fish populations. We might have just stumbled onto a good thing.

A “slow-motion apocalypse in progress”

Photographer Chris Jordan has photographed the stomach contents of albatross chicks on Midway Atoll, “one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent.”

The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking.

To document this phenomenon as faithfully as possible, not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way.

In his artist’s statement for another exhibit, Jordan writes that his work shows evidence of “a slow-motion apocalypse in progress.”

The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits.

As an American consumer myself, I am in no position to finger wag; but I do know that when we reflect on a difficult question in the absence of an answer, our attention can turn inward, and in that space may exist the possibility of some evolution of thought or action. So my hope is that these photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry. It may not be the most comfortable terrain, but I have heard it said that in risking self-awareness, at least we know that we are awake.

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