Eco-quiz question: How many whales swim the oceans?
If you have been listening to Greenpeace, or other eco-activist/animal-rights organizations and their friends in the media, you probably answered a or b. The correct answer is c. Today, swimming in the oceans, you will find: 25,000 gray whales, more than before commercial whaling began; one million minke whales; close to a million pilot whales and beluga whales; and well over one million sperm whales. Of the 75 species of cetaceans, only 5 are endangered. The North Atlantic right whale, of which there are less than 1,000, are the most threatened. Other endagered whale species are the blue (10,000 to 14,000), the humpback (10,000 to 15,000), and the bowhead (8,000 12,000).
You can read the real story about whales — rather than another tale of eco-dishonesty — in Eugene Lapointe’s important new book, Embracing The World’s Resources: A Global Conservation Vision (Sherbrooke, Quebec: Editions du Scribe, 2003, $27). This book should be required reading for every student studying conservation and ecology, and every decision-maker trying to fashion sustainable resource-use policy.
Eugene Lapointe has unique credentials to write a book on sustainability. He is the current president of IWMC World Conservation Trust, a global coalition of experts and wildlife managers promoting sustainable resource use guided by science. An attorney who grew up in the woods of Quebec, Lapointe served fourteen years in the Canadian government before becoming the Secretary General of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, from 1982 to 1990. CITES is the international trade commission overseeing the multi-billion-dollar-a-year commerce in wild animals and their products.
Lapointe left his post at CITES dramatically on November 2, 1990, when he was dismissed by UNEP executive director Mostapha Tolba. The campaign to remove him was led by a handful of U.S. officials and 28 major NGOs, who, according to Lapointe, “claimed I had become the worst criminal on the planet.” His crime was advocating a sustainable-use philosophy that allowed for scientifically directed hunting of whales, elephants, and other animals, especially in situations that respect local cultural values.
Thirty months later, a Panel of Judges at the United Nations described Lapointe’s dismissal as “capricious and arbitrary,” resulting from “the worst case of character assassination in the history of the United Nations.” In a unanimous decision, the judges vindicated Lapointe, awarded him financial compensation, ordered his reinstatement, and forced the U.N. secretary general to write a letter stating that Lapointe “had fulfilled his duties and responsibilities in every way and in a highly satisfactory manner.”
In 167 passionate pages, Lapointe lays out his pragmatic philosophy of sustainable use, and he also presents considerable data on the actual state of many wild animals — data that seldom appear in the media. His defense clearly shows why poverty is the biggest force working against conservation. Then he describes the attack on him and the organizations that did it.
Lapointe takes after the extremist NGOs, whose real green quest is the pursuit of the greenback. He explains why his pragmatic approach to conservation runs into conflict with green fundamentalists. His method does not generate the crises necessary for their fundraising. It soon becomes clear that this is why Lapointe got the hatchet.
Based on decades of watching environmental and animal rights groups squeeze their way into CITES, Lapointe distills their common approach to fundraising:
1) Pick campaigns that can be publicized with graphic, shocking and gory photos.
2) Develop simple, catchy slogans, “Save The Whales,” “Don’t Buy Ivory.”
3) Identify a human villain Norwegian or Japanese whalers; big game hunters.
4) Launch an emotional appeal, versus a scientific one; humanizing animals and dehumanizing people.
5) Always include the threat that this will decrease the quality of life or threaten ecosystem stability, etc. of people and the world.
According to Lapointe, eco/animal-rights NGOs, such as the Species Survival Network, a coalition of over 60 NGOs who claim to be “committed to the promotion, enhancement, and strict enforcement of [CITES],” perpetuate many misconceptions about animals and may actually be a threat to whales and endangered species.
Lapointe’s book harpoons myths. What is the biggest threat to blue and right whales? Lapointe suggests it may not be whalers, but an overabundance of minke whales that compete with blue and right whales for the same food, as well as killer whales, which ruthlessly prey in packs, or pods, on young leviathans.
Lapointe also points out that tooted and baleen whales consume three-to-six times the combined 90-million ton annual seafood catch of all the world’s commercial fisheries. How often have you ever heard the media suggest that an overabundance of some species of whales is a contributing factor to the decline of some stocks of fisheries? Lapointe argues that controlled whaling, for meat, could help restore ailing fisheries.
This book will destroy false media images of the financially well-heeled and so-called environmental groups, as well as the governments who support them. For example, Lapointe says that “Greenpeace is a typical example of a multi-million dollar business concern that is entirely non-productive. It creates no wealth for society, but instead plays upon the gullibility of well-meaning individuals, insidiously undermining the technological basis that create wealth in the first place.” Lapointe is on point.
The X-Files promoted the idea that “The truth is out there.” One of the places you can find it is in Embracing the Earth’s Wild Resources. Read this book and you will learn more about ecology and resource management than you will by reading the endless stream of urgent appeals and tabloid newsletters written by the green fundamentalists who drove Eugene Lapointe out of his leadership post at CITES.
— James Swan is a contributing editor of ESPNOutdoors.com. He also writes for the Outdoor Channel’s Engel’s Outdoor Experience, which just won a Golden Moose for the category “Best Waterfowl Shows 2002.”