“A Porpoise Is Ensnared By Criminals and Nets” Elisabeth Malkin
The continuous rise in power of the People’s Republic of China can be felt throughout the economic, political, and social spheres the world over. It is their overwhelming influence however regarding their appetites that affects even the most obscure communities dotting the California and Mexican coastlines and even as far away as the South Pacific.
The lucrative business of totoaba fishing in the little town of San Felipe, Mexico can fetch about “$10,000” per bladder that the fishermen can obtain. These “more lucrative than marijuana,” bladders are to be bought, sold and gobbled up by the Chinese market for exotic and endangered species, citing the “health benefits” from these species. Now it is understandable that a person’s appetite should be appeased, that’s simple human nature, but is it worth the destruction of an entire species of creature from creation? Because of poaching, and overfishing of the totoaba (and shrimp and other marketable sea life) the life of the vaquita porpoise has been driven to the endangered species status with a chance of extinction occurring in the next “four years,” says the International Committee for the Recover of the Vaquita.
Overfishing itself is of course overly destructive of important marine life and ruins the very delicate balance of these ecosystems. This overfishing and poaching by humans have been the cause of more than one disappearance of a particular animal species from the world and the almost unalterable consequences that follow from disturbing the environment and threatening other plant, animal, and human lives. The loss of the vaquita porpoise poses a threat to the species that prey upon the little porpoise but also it may hurt the fishing business in the areas as well. The porpoise’s important position in the ecosystem maintains the well-intended balance of the many species of marine life and crustaceans that will overpopulate, dominate and destroy the surrounding waters.
Now this whole scenario seems all too familiar to me. I have seen the repercussions of this insatiable Chinese palate for the exotic and sensitive species around the world. In the tiny island Kingdom of Tonga, the overfishing of prized sea cucumbers have filled the pockets of Tongan and Chinese government officials and for now it has laced the pockets of many struggling islanders. However, the consequences of this overfishing and disruption in the ocean’s ecosystem can be felt by the same fishermen who find themselves going further into the deep to find large fish, and enough in quantity to feed their families. You see, these unenticing creatures known as mokohunu in Tongan, are Mother Nature’s ever working vacuum cleaners that continually keep over growing seaweed and “weeds” at bay will ridding the ocean floor of little fish “surprises.” However, with the disappearance of the mokohunu, the water quality and the pushing in of seaweed and other “growths” take the place of reefs and rock formations that house game fish. This lack of “housing” forces the fish to seek deeper waters, and for those that stay, their sizes seem to decrease with the lack of enough room to swim, reproduce and find prey, this then forces the fishermen to overfish the fish and repeat the process.
There is nothing wrong with the rising power of the Chinese influence around the world, except when it endangers the very people that is used as proxies to fulfill their apparently insatiable appetite. From what this article and others about the vaquita and the mokohunu issue, it seems that more attention and policy has come from the lower registries of government, either local or municipal. There apparently has not been enough tougher sanctions by the international community as a whole in controlling China’s push for their prized dishes. In the end their prized delicacies will in fact hurt them more then it will appease them for the hour or two the meal may last. These same countries that continually vie to strengthen economic and political ties with China, through these lucrative business deals will find themselves at the short end of the stick when they decide to revisit their once favorite fishing spots only to find themselves reaching for empty nets. The issue is complicated even more, for there will always be those who defend these extreme practices as it is the lesser of two evils. One being the destruction of a species and the other the ability to care for spouses and children that may be made much more difficult with the restricted or total foreclosure of these sure Chinese “meal tickets.”