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Elisabeth Mann Borgese International Ocean Institute
The crisis of knowledge appeared to be a most suitable subject for Pacem in Maribus in the Year of the Ocean, as we were preparing to slip into the next century, the next millennium, an era of uncertainty, fraught with deep concerns about the future of the human race and the future of our Planet Ocean. But what really is this crisis of knowledge and how does it affect our behaviour, our activities, especially with regard to the oceans where the crisis appears to be deepest?
Recent decades have witnessed a radical shift in the philosophy of science, a "paradigm change." Since the age of enlightenment, scientists thought that they knew much and were learning more and more so that in the future they would have enough data to be able to model, and make linear projections of, processes and developments. Today, we have recognized that the more we know, the better we know how little we know; that our knowledge will remain forever incomplete; that the systems with which we are dealing are exceedingly complex; that the behavior of complex systems is nonlinear and unpredictable; and that uncertainty is the name of the game. Additional data on additional factors, making systems more complex, will induce chaos rather than enhance predictability.
Uncertainty may of course be caused by lack of information as well as by an overdose of information. In the marine sciences, uncertainty is caused by both. We know too much about too little-about too small a part of the world's ocean.
Our activities in the oceans very much depend on science. Responsible fishing depends on adequate knowledge of a number of sciences, including marine biology and ecology; shipping must rely, among other things, on meteorology; mineral exploration, on marine geology and volcanology; pollution control, on marine chemistry and physical oceanography, and so forth. Uncertainties in all of these sciences abound. Interactions between sea floor, water column, atmosphere, land, and rivers are of unfathomable complexity, and only a minuscule portion of the world's ocean has actually been explored.
If the whole system is complex, multidisciplinary, nonlinear, and unpredictable, each component, like those in a laser hologram, reflects the whole: Fisheries management, or the management of shipping, ports, and harbours as components of ocean and coastal zone management, is as complex, multidisciplinary, nonlinear, and unpredictable as the system as a whole, including scientific, environmental, economic, social, legal, cultural, and ethical factors; each of these subfactors can be broken down again into equally complex subsystems. Furthermore, the uncertainties intrinsic to the "new scientific paradigm" may cause difficulties in the relations between politics and science or "science policy."
"What does the term "science policy" come to mean? Policy for doing science? An instrument for doing science? For using science? The integration of the scientific with other enquiry systems? Establishment of scientific goals? We have tried to come to terms with this over the years, and seem to have come to the conclusion that it is all of these, and more. We can, of course, try to be statesmanlike and talk our way around it."
The relations between political decision makers and scientists here in Canada and elsewhere have not been optimal in recent years and need to be improved. Excessive complexity, furthermore, has generated a yearning for a return to simplicity and common sense. This, perhaps, is the root cause for the recent movement toward "integrating" the millennial experience and wisdom of indigenous populations, navigators, and fisherfolk into ocean and coastal management. But this "integration," thus far, has not been very successful, and the relations between fishers and scientists are as conflictive as those between scientists and politicians. The "data" extracted from native wisdom will not fit into the "models" of the scientists and thus are filed apart. Instead of "integration," we get something like a Chinese pharmacy: modern medicines on the shelves on the left-hand side; traditional herb medicines on the shelves to the right! This can hardly be called "integration." "Integration" would mean to find scientific explanations for the innate wisdom of "indigenous people" and to upgrade that wisdom through modern scientific methodology. We have a long way to go.
Another aspect of the "crisis of knowledge," last but not least, is caused by intercultural conflicts, especially as between developed and developing countries. Science as developed by Western culture or the "North" was supposed to be "value free." The Northern concept of "managing" the oceans or coastal zone takes on a different hue in the Southern paradigm. In the Southern concept, the natural laws have to be harmonized with, and decisions taken according to, well-established guidelines based on ethical considerations. The attaining of sustainable development needs an ethical perspective and the use of values for attaining sustainability.
The reader of these proceedings may be sufficiently confused by this time to want to close the book and forget abut it. Pacem in Maribus XXVI instead bravely attempted to face the crisis, unravel its components, and come up with a series of reasonable and practical recommendations.
Some startling facts came to light. Thus, Don McAllister found that only about 15 percent of marine species of plants, animals, and microorganisms are described. How can we establish serious Red Lists of endangered species when so few species are known? Species are being endangered and becoming extinct without ever having been known. When large groups of organisms like the bacteria, fungi, and algae are incompletely known, yet carry out key ecological functions, how can we pretend that we understand marine ecosystems or can manage them?
But species that are not prime targets of fisheries may nevertheless be affected by fisheries. The populations of barndoor skate, the largest skate in the northwest Atlantic, are now decimated. A large fisheries area south of Newfoundland had a population of about 600,000 in the 1950s, but by the 1970s the population probably numbered about 500. The big skate was probably the victim of trawler bycatches. A recent southeastern Australian king prawn fishery was assessed for bycatch. In catching 1,579 tons of prawn, the fleet also caught some 16,434 tons of bycatch involving some 80 species of finfish, crustaceans, and molluscs, a bycatch-to-prawn ratio of 10.4 to 1. Of this, an estimated 2,972 tons was retained for sale, and the remaining 13,458 tons was thrown overboard. And this, while stocks are being depleted by overfishing, and millions of people are starving!
Regarding our concern for the environment, a 1996 cleanup campaign by the Center for Marine Conservation of the United States produced 1,324,380 kg of debris from 15,324 km of coast, or 86.4 kg per km. A similar campaign in the Philippines yielded 1.8 million kg from 11,265 km of coastline, some 160 kg per km.
The debris, in the form of cigarette butts, pieces of plastic and plastic bags, beverage cans and bottles, fishing gear, and so forth, stems from throwaway minded industries, consumers and fishers, no-deposit soft drink and beer containers, thoughtless cruise ship lines, etc. This debris disturbs the natural habitat and biodiversity inshore and nearshore. McAllister mentions, among the root causes and precipitating factors of the ecological crisis, population growth, inequitable per capita consumption, market forces, militarism, and ignorance.
The following panel sessions were to test the effects of the crisis of knowledge on various sectors of ocean management.
James O'Malley found that fisheries science has become increasingly dominated by mathematics. This approach has failed to take into account the complex environment of the ocean, and has left little room for a holistic understanding of fisheries. If humans are to truly manage ocean fisheries productively and wisely, the accumulated knowledge of the fishing industry and their real-time observations must be incorporated into the management process. This integration is the key to the future of the fisheries both for scientific and social goals.
Panelists supported the measures proposed by the Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO's) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the FAO Compliance Agreement to reduce overcapacity. Regional fishing organizations were believed to be capable of regulating fishing access in the high seas and of controlling vessels flying a "flag of convenience" or "pirate fishing vessels." Good postharvest handling techniques such as the use of refrigerated seawater for commercial vessels and the use of ice boxes for coastal fishermen should contribute to the reduction of postharvest losses that presently may amount to 20 to 25 percent of global harvests. This would reduce the pressure on the fisheries and improve the livelihoods of fishers.
It is indeed encouraging to read that, within the offshore oil industry, more and more companies are finding the need to frame their activities in the context of sustainable development. The definition of success is now more closely tied to balancing environmental protection with social progress and economic development. Mobil wholeheartedly supports the global effort toward sustainable development through the appropriate balance of economic development and environmental protection.
The institutional framework for offshore hydrocarbon operations, designed for Atlantic Canada, should serve to implement these concepts. A Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, an independent joint agency, was established by law in 1990 to manage offshore petroleum activities both for the federal and the provincial governments. This board is of interest, particularly for two reasons: First, it embodies a "comanagement system," including extensive consultations between governments, regulators, the oil and gas industry, environmental and fishing communities, labour groups, suppliers, and others. It has a broad and comprehensive mandate encompassing, among other things, enhancement of safety in offshore petroleum activities, protection of the environment during such activities, the review and approval of industrial benefits and employment programs, community impact problems such as inflationary pressure on commercial property and housing prices, influx of outside workers, traffic, stress on local services, and environmental degradation-highly complex matters with a great deal of inherent uncertainty and unpredictability.
The other interesting point is that pursuant to a political accord negotiated in 1986, the federal government of Canada and the provincial government of Nova Scotia agreed to set aside the issue of resource ownership for offshore Nova Scotia. Thus it is not "resource ownership" that matters. What matters is management and benefit sharing. In a way, this makes the resource a common heritage of Canadians. In a way, it makes the exploration and exploitation areas "joint management zones" or "joint development zones" as they exist between states, and states can learn from this arrangement. In fact, since its creation, the board has been visited by representatives from other areas of the world interested in learning more about our joint management system. Officials from Viet Nam, the Falkland Islands, Kazakhstan, and Cuba have commented on the uniqueness of this regulatory approach.
The globalization of the shipping industry, just like globalization in other sectors, has, on the whole, not contributed to human security, the protection of the environment, and the fortunes of the poor. Suffice it to remember that about 70 percent of the globalized fleet is registered in open registries issued in Panama, Liberia, the Bahamas, Cyprus, and half a dozen other states, often with loose standards, if any, for labor conditions and for the environment. Globalization has contributed to the plight of seamen from poor countries and to the marginalization of weaker economies and countries off the mainstream of shipping and transport developments.
Shipping requires a huge capital investment. A large tanker costs up to US$100 million, and "a ship-owner needs a crystal ball to guess whether such an investment will be viable over the ship's lifetime which is anyway limited to a maximum period of about 20 to 25 years. Not surprisingly, most feel the gamble is too great. The best laid company plans can be made to look foolish by sudden collapses in the market."
Shipping is in its own knowledge crisis. Recognition and understanding of the industry is low. In many cases, the shipping community itself is growing disheartened. Professionals quit the industry, taking their precious knowledge with them. And, as Edgar Gold points out, the number of well-trained seafarers is also dwindling, for a variety of reasons, thus contributing an additional dimension to the "crisis of knowledge."
The agenda was packed full, and there was no time for the consideration of another important component of the complex system of ocean and coastal management: ocean-related tourism, a multibillion-dollar industry with the highest growth rate in the world economy, but which is beset with uncertainties and risks. The risks of tourism are complex: partly they are created by natural hazards, such as hurricanes and other natural disasters; and partly they are generated by humans-civil unrest, crime, drugs, terrorism, and poverty; and poverty, in turn, interacts with the natural disaster risks, because it is always the poor that get hit the hardest.
The International Ocean Institute is presently involved in a project to study the modalities for integrating risk management and disaster preparedness, mitigation, and adaptation into integrated coastal management, and a recommendation to this effect is included in the Conclusions and Recommendations of Pacem in Maribus XXVI. Tourism provides a particularly interesting case study, raising a number of questions and challenges. Which of the risks inherent in tourism are insurable? Which are not? Can one make a cost/benefit analysis-benefits (foreign exchange and employment) versus what one would have to spend to make tourism safer? Would it not make a lot of sense to include risk assessment into the planning for tourist development? This would seem at least as useful as environmental impact assessment, which is obligatory. What about having risk management specialists included in the councils of comanagement, together with the other "users" (fishermen's organizations, harbor masters, tourist associations, etc.)? What sort of legislation should be in place to reduce risk (where to build and not to build, building codes, etc.)? What about community-based disaster-preparedness training, which could also serve to socially integrate people who otherwise might contribute to civil unrest and terrorism? Such questions are of particular relevance for small island developing states, which are overly dependent on tourism as their only resource.
In conclusion, the proceedings contain two important features. The first is a series of comments by "young professionals"-students and young civil servants mostly from developing countries-on the discussions and conclusions of the conference. Inclusion of the young is obviously of utmost importance, for it is they who must understand, implement, adapt, and develop what the older generation proposes today, one hopes through a peaceful process of continuity and change.
The government of Canada contributed the second interesting feature. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans considered the conference as an important platform on which to assemble an expert team to discuss the possibilities of developing a strategic approach for Canada's oceans, from the promulgation of the Oceans Act to the framing of an oceans strategy.
The number of messages received and keynote addresses delivered by world leaders in ocean affairs was heartening and set high standards for the conference. We want to express our deepest gratitude to all who participated in the preparation and the conduct of Pacem in Maribus XXVI.
Excerpted from OCEAN YEARBOOK 15 Copyright © 2001 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission.
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|Essay : Tsunami - 26 December 2004||1|
|Response of governmental and non-governmental organizations to marine natural disasters : the IOC and IOI case||7|
|After the Tsunami - restoring the livelihoods of coastal fishers and enhancing their role in coastal fisheries management and conservation practices in the future||21|
|Delineation and delimitation of sub-national maritime boundaries : insights from the Philippines||41|
|Confronting the oceans crisis : a Pacific strategy||79|
|The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy : an historical overview (1997-2005)||93|
|Collaborative oceans governance : measuring efficacy||147|
|Low-tide elevations in international law of the sea : selected issues||189|
|International law of the sea, access and benefit sharing agreements, and the use of biotechnology in the development, patenting and commercialization of marine natural products as therapeutic agents||221|
|In the shoes of the fisher : commercial fishers and the Tasmanian marine protected area policy journey||283|
|The SEAFC convention : a comparative analysis in a developing coastal state perspective||305|
|Globalization, sea farming and flexibility in Norwegian coastal zone planning||377|
|Is the opening of the bystroe shipping channel compatible with the Danube delta biosphere reserve and the adjacent Black Sea ecosystem?||393|
|The economic valuation of coastal areas : the case of Uruguay||411|
|Marine invasive species in North America : impacts, pathways and management|
|Evaluation of New Zealand's national coastal policy statement : has it been effective?||471|
|The growing significance of coast guards in the Asia-Pacific : a quiet development in regional maritime security||505|
|International regulation and maritime safety mechanisms after the Prestige catastrophe on the Galician coast||533|
|Straits used in international navigation, user fees and article 43 of the 1982 law of the sea convention||561|
|Dealing with risk and uncertainty : how to improve the basis for decisions about granting refuge to ships in need of assistance||595|
|Public education : seeking to engender marine stewardship at the U.K. National Maritime Museum||623|