Sharks: Pictures from Cites in Pew News Now *

These beautiful pictures of live sharks, and the horrifying pictures of de-finned hammerhead sharks taken for CITES**, are shown in the October 10th Pew News Now Newsletter and were available to copy.

Sharks are caught to provide their fins for food and most are then shoved back in the water, dead.

This is what The Pew Environment Group stated in its press release:-

“Seven species of vulnerable sharks and manta rays have now been submitted by 35 countries for consideration for protection next year under an international treaty concerned with regulating wildlife trade.

Governments met the deadline today and formally submitted their proposals for the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in March 2013. The recommendations include porbeagle and oceanic whitetip sharks, three species of hammerhead sharks, and two types of manta rays. For nearly 40 years, CITES has shielded thousands of plants and animals from overexploitation through international trade, and the treaty is widely considered one of the best-enforced international conservation agreements.

“We congratulate the governments of Brazil, Comoros, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Egypt, the member States of the European Union, the United States, Mexico, and Honduras for their leadership and commitment to shark conservation, and urge the global community to join their call to finally provide critical international trade protection for these vulnerable shark species,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group.

The 176 members of CITES will analyze these proposals before a final vote in Bangkok in March 2013.

“Countries cannot continue to watch as these sharks and rays are driven to the brink of extinction; measures need to be put in place now to regulate international trade in these species,” said Elizabeth Wilson, manager of shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group. “This is not just about sharks; it’s about keeping the world’s oceans healthy. CITES has the chance in Bangkok to help save these species.”

And in its campaign introduction . . .

“Global Shark Conservation

Sharks have roamed our oceans since before the time of dinosaurs, but their long reign at the top of the ocean food chain may be ending.

The onset of industrial fishing over the past 60 years has drastically depleted their populations. Of the shark and ray species assessed by scientists for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 30 percent are threatened or near-threatened with extinction.

Shark finning–the practice of catching a shark, slicing off its fins and then discarding the body at sea–takes a tremendous toll on shark populations. Up to 73 million sharks are killed every year to primarily support the global shark fin industry, valued for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup.

In general, sharks grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over long lifetimes, leaving them exceptionally vulnerable to overexploitation and slow to recover from depletion. As key predators, their depletion also has risks for the health of entire ocean ecosystems. For example, tiger sharks have been linked to the quality of seagrass beds through their prey, dugongs and green sea turtles, which forage in these beds. Without tiger sharks to control their prey’s foraging, an important habitat is lost

The Pew Environment Group has identified the present moment as a critical time to reverse the global decline of shark populations. We will work internationally with our coalition allies to influence the fishing nations and treaty organizations that regulate high seas fisheries. In addition, we will work with nations whose waters still have diverse populations of sharks to declare shark sanctuaries and to advocate for international shark conservation”.

Ruth’s comment: You might say that in Britain, we behave similarly . . .

We are told that one-third of the food produced for us is never eaten, but thrown away and wasted. That wasted food is likely to include marine organisms as well as meats of farm animals.

*‘Pew News Now’ is the Email Newsletter of the Pew Charitable Trusts

**CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

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Galloway Country Fair – August 18th and 19th 2012

The Fair was held in the beautiful surroundings of Drumlanrig Estate, near Thornhill, below the castle and above a curve in the River Nith.

Despite enough rain to produce mud and squelching, people seemed to be having as good time, wandering around the many tents and stalls with children, dogs and bags of shopping. There were excellent shows in the two rings. I watched a hefty chap putting the shot, some busy spaniel pups learning to find, collect and hand over a training toy. The best part of the show was when a group of Buccleuch Hounds, instead of following the Master of Hounds and his horn, spent a lot of time emptying themselves in the middle of the main ring.

The Royal Scottish Forestry Society had a spanking new tent adjoining the main ring. The Society was founded as long ago as 1854, a point made to people interested in trees who might be persuaded to become members. A few obliged! The Society consists of a wide variety of people from professional foresters, to landowners with a lot of commercial forests to landowners with a few acres who wish to plant a few nice trees, to people interested in the conservation of landscapes and wildlife.

The very large cones of Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) on my display table interested younger people. This tree is a native of the western USA, but my cones had come from tall trees in the hot, desert conditions of southern England.

The Fair was held in the beautiful surroundings of Drumlanrig Estate, near Thornhill, below the castle and above a curve in the River Nith.

Despite enough rain to produce mud and squelching, people seemed to be having as good time, wandering around the many tents and stalls with children, dogs and bags of shopping. There were excellent shows in the two rings. I watched a hefty chap putting the shot, some busy spaniel pups learning to find, collect and hand over a training toy. The best part of the show was when a group of Buccleuch Hounds, instead of following the Master of Hounds and his horn, spent a lot of time emptying themselves in the middle of the main ring.

The Royal Scottish Forestry Society had a spanking new tent adjoining the main ring. The Society was founded as long ago as 1854, a point made to people interested in trees who might be persuaded to become members. A few obliged! The Society consists of a wide variety of people from professional foresters, to landowners with a lot of commercial forests to landowners with a few acres who wish to plant a few nice trees, to people interested in the conservation of landscapes and wildlife.

The very large cones of Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) on my display table interested younger people. This tree is a native of the western USA, but my cones had come from tall trees in the hot, desert conditions of southern England.

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The Deserts of Darvel are Blooming… or… Gravel, Monoblock and Tarmac… or… The Plants Are Fighting Back!

Pink gravel, grey gravel, red gravel, white gravel, many-coloured gravel,  monoblock in rows or patterns, new tarmac to cover up the bothersome ‘dirt’ (soil) and make life easier and cleaner…

It seemed to be the end of garden life, when, for ease of maintenance and supposed tidiness, gravel, monoblock and tarmac began replacing lawns, soil and beautiful flowers  (do the worms below all die when covered with plastic, gravel and tarmac?)

This trend continues, and even new homes are given deserts instead of gardens. Tiny deserts of ‘hard landscaping’, surrounded, not by hedges where birds can nest, but by high wood fences so you can’t talk to your neighbours!

These deserts have few habitats for birds, beetles, bugs or bugle; no places for flowers and flower-beds; no lawn for daisies to make daisy chains (daisies and clover in the road verges are sliced off by the council); nowhere for the kids to get muddy or eat worms; nowhere for children to grow plants and pick food. And nowhere to smell the scent of wet soil, of the early morning, of roses and night-scented stock; nowhere to feel the approach of thunder; nowhere to hear the wonderful sound of bees humming in flowers.

But plants are fighting back! Look at the photographs and see what the plants have been up to in some gravel deserts.

AND – did you know that every time a garden is gravelised – fish suffer!

That sounds strange!

Every time a boat-load of gravel lands its cargo, it has removed the gravelly spawning grounds of sea bass or herring. No wonder it’s difficult to buy fresh fish from British waters any more.

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Annual Excursion of the Royal Scottish Forestry Society

The Royal Scottish Forestry Society had its annual 4-day field meeting in the Scottish Borders and Northumberland during May this year.

Visits included Kylloes and Kielder Forests in Northumberland, the Bowmont Valley on the north side of the Cheviot Hills to see proposed flood control methods and the Roxburghe Estate near Kelso. A short visit to the one-time estate and woodlands of Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford, near Selkirk, finished off the event with a beautiful morning in woodlands near the River Tweed.

Photographs:-

1.    Considering what to do about unwanted regeneration of Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) in Kylloes Forest (seen in the background of this picture).

2.    A good stand of young Corsican pine (Pinus nigra subsp. laricio) in Kylloes Forest.

3.    Young Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) growing amongst gorgeous gorse (Ulex europaeus)

4.  A Harvester at work in Kielder Forest. It fells the tree, takes off the bark, measures the length, and cuts it into lengths.

5.    The ‘Cellulose Factory’ of Kielder. If you want lots of paper, you need this!

6.    Kielder Water, a man-made lake much used for recreation.

7.  The upper catchment of the Bowmont Water in the Cheviot Hill: beautiful but degraded.

8.  With heavy rain, this tiny Water floods downstream, causing much damage. A wide margin of ‘Riparian’ (waterside) plants would help prevent that.

9.  An attempt at ‘natural’ flood control downstream.

10.  Flooding brought down all these stones and gravel and left them here.

11.  The road just behind the gorse bushes was nearly washed away: by that tiny stream in Photo 7.

12.  The boiler on the Roxburghe Estate which keeps the castle and some cottages warm (for the first time ever!)

13.  Wood chips from the Estate forests, waiting to feed the boiler.


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Fear of Farming, Foraging, Forgetting and Food

Reaction to “Is Farming the Only Way of Providing Food?”

By Professor Richard Oram, Stirling University

We have been presented with three intriguing, thought-provoking and – hopefully – discussion-stimulating papers.  If we take a relatively superficial view of the arguments presented, then there is clearly much that is controversial.  To use that now hackneyed question, how sustainable as a means of food-production is hunter-gathering for most modern urban populations?  How soon would exploitation of the resource lead to its tipping over that ecological threshold into unsustainability?  But total abandonment of agriculture is not what is being advocated here; it is a question of balance and a (re-)recognition of opportunities that have been forgotten over the last six thousand years.  As Ruth, who organised this panel, stressed there is the ecological knowledge to permit the farmed and the foraged to become joint dimensions of modern diets.

Caroline has taken us back to the beginning of one of – if not the most – fundamental shifts in the whole basis of human life on most of this planet; a move from a dietary regime based primarily on foraging to one based primarily on the produce of cultivation.  The transition involved a profound reordering of human socio-economic conditions and required a yet more profound reordering of the environment to sustain the increasing population levels which were one of the most direct consequences of the move from forage to farming.  In her paper, Caroline has highlighted several negative dimensions of this transition, and has urged for a cultural reconsideration of our whole attitude and approach to modern food-production, pointing to some beneficial aspects of foraging and suggesting their general re-adoption, and further suggesting an alternative future path in the provision of our food.

Ruth has then sought to address the obvious central criticism to be directed at any advocate of even a partial return to a forage-based dietary regime; the inadequacy of available non-farming-derived food resources for the sustaining of contemporary population levels or modern, urban-based societies.  She has taken an ecologist’s approach to provide a response to that criticism, looking at ecology’s general relevance to understanding of global food-production, existing alternative methods of meeting food needs, and ecology’s ability to ensure the sustainability of these alternative food sources.

Finally Jennifer has raised the issue of the fundamental need to re-examine our whole cultural relationship with what she has termed ‘the landscape of our food’.  Here we have been confronted with Andrew Dalby’s view of the Neolithic social revolution as a still-unfolding ‘process of forgetting’ which has – and continues to – push forward the industrialisation of agriculture and widen the gap between the majority of the population and the direct production of the food which they consume.   Social and cultural factors, she observes, were key drivers in the transition from hunter-gathering to farming, and she then poses the question for us: is it not possible to use those same drivers to effect a fresh reorientation?

It is the issue of cultural responses to provision or production of food that runs through all three papers, for any reorientation towards a greater emphasis on foraged foods would require not only a behavioural shift in how we gather our foodstuffs but also an attitudinal shift in what we eat and where we obtain it.  And here is where we begin to run into the obstacles that modern western society has constructed for itself.  It is those obstacles, I suggest, and the social and cultural attitudes which underpin them that perhaps we should home in on first.

Cultural attitudes towards food are particularly deeply ingrained in many societies, not just in Britain, but many segments of the modern British population seem especially disinclined even to sample non-processed foods or items which are outside a narrow repertoire of products.  You could say a ‘meat-and-two-veg’ culture if it were actually true that as many as two vegetables were included in most manifestations of it!  This is a marked contrast not just to the dietary range of the hunter-gatherer society that Caroline discussed but also to even our more recent ancestors and is perhaps one of the clearest indicators of the widespread disconnection between food production and consumption that Jennifer referred to.  Let’s take the consumption of game meats.  The population in the UK of animals classed as game has risen hugely yet there is little significant increase in popular demand for game produce except amongst fairly niche segments of the population.  Much of this arises from perceptions and misconceptions: consumption of rabbit collapsed after myxomatosis (not helped by the Disneyfication of rabbits and the generation brought up after Watership Down was published).

Clearly education is a key enabler in the potential reconnection of the modern population with its sources of food and with the potential for foraged foods as a supplementary component in their diets.  If we bear in mind that for some school children being confronted with an unpeeled raw onion is as close to natural foodstuffs as they have ever come, education will have to start at a very basic level.  But tied directly to this need for education is there not also a need for a new ‘process of forgetting’, this time of the risk-aversion-mania that has seen adults hammer into the last few generations of children a fear of any foods that either do not come from a shop or from their own garden?  A few well-meaning, mainly white, affluent middle-class and in this case mainly female practitioners is not going to carry through this revolution: how many food-fad bibles now hold up charity shop book-shelves – Atkin’s Diet, Raw Energy etc – sales of foraging handbooks is no real measure of how many people actually go out and live the life described in the pages.  For every Ray Mears there is a million Frank Gallaghers.  At present, does our socio-cultural framework not render a foraging lifestyle elite escapism available only to those who can afford to take a ‘time out’?  If we can simply tell our children that MOST wild fruits are edible – and actually show them by example – it would be a start to a more general awareness raising achievement than any number of Miles Irving’s books can deliver.

There is also the issue of future landscapes which needs to be considered here.  Ruth raised a whole series of important ecological issues for us to ponder, several of which highlight different implications for land-use and landscape visualisation – tidy = good, untidy = bad – dependent upon choices that we make in respect of how we exploit – or choose not to exploit – the food resources sustained in and on that land.  The question of ‘extincted’ top predators raises the question of reintroduction – and the attendant need then to manage those species where the topmost predators – us – have otherwise ceased to predate!  Here significant levels of foraging will have an impact that some will see as positive and others as negative.  An increase in predation of particular species does not simply have a consequence for those targeted species: new niches are created or old ones are reduced; grazing impacts change and not always with what might be perceived as beneficial consequences.  And the question of increasing predation of currently under- or unexploited species also runs counter to the modern trend towards conservation – a question which also crosses into biomass management generally in a countryside where so many of the more favourable hunter-gatherer environments have some degree of national or international significance, designation and consequent protection.  It collides, too, with notions of large-scale ecosystems restoration – US policy in this regard makes Wicken Fen appear like mere tinkering with a puddle – for why and for whom is the restoration occurring; to what condition is it being restored; and if it is to become a potential forager’s paradise, how does its exploitation get regulated to ensure that it simply does not quickly degenerate once more into the over-exploited ecologically degraded desert that it had effectively become?

But what about numbers?  In extolling the virtues and advantages of a hunter-gather society there is a danger of losing sight of that critical question of how a modern level of population could even be sustained in part on a forage element in food production.  What is the carrying capacity of the land in terms of a hunter-gatherer population?  What is the carrying capacity of the land in terms of a population that mixed modern agriculture with foraging?  And this is not just an ecological question or another manifestation of the questions at the heart of Hardin’s ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ for it also crosses into those absolutely fundamental dimensions of the human cultural condition; property and individual and collective moral responsibilities for the welfare and rights of others.  But we will have to confront these fundamental issues, or the future may be green and not in the eco-friendly sense but in the ecological horror-story sense of Harry Harrison’s Soylent Green, where the foodstuff of the future is the most abundant life-form, processed human…

CLICK HERE for more details of the Conference

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Good News!

On March 30th, the Northern Planning Committee of East Ayrshire Council unanimously rejected the application from Scottish Power Renewables to demolish Whiteleehill and High Overmuir steadings on the Whitelee Plateau (see blog post March 14th 2012), so for the moment they still exist.

More news in due course.

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IS FARMING THE ONLY WAY OF PROVIDING FOOD

Us three girls, Caroline, Jennifer and Ruth have organised a session on

“IS FARMING THE ONLY WAY OF PROVIDING FOOD?”

at the forthcoming European Social Science History Conference at Glasgow University, Scotland, 11th to 14th April 2012. Caroline is an archaeologist on the Orkney Islands, Jennifer is an economist and forager in Liverpool, while Ruth is an environmental historian in south-west Scotland.

Modern western civilisation can hardly conceive of life and food without farming!

But in Great Britain, before the 4000 years of farming until now, there were 4000 years of hunting, fishing and foraging to obtain food! .

And in North America, before the recent only 500 years of farming, food was obtained by hunting, fishing and foraging for 15,000 years by some millions of people on the continent.

The Abstracts of our three talks are presented here; there is a direct link to the complete talks if you wish to read them.

Caroline Wickham-Jones   
Fear of Farming?

Ruth Tittensor
Can Ecology Contribute to Food Provision?

Jennifer Lee           
Gathering: Reconnecting with the Landscape of our Food

FIND OUT MORE – CLICK HERE

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The New Clearances

East Ayrshire has lost 9 homes to open-cast coal mining during the past decade. Now, applications have been made to East Ayrshire Council planners to demolish three farm steadings on the Whitelee Plateau near Kilmarnock. Apparently, they are empty, derelict and surplus to requirements.

The steadings and farmlands of Whiteleehill, Croilburn and High Overmuir were originally tenant farms of the Loudoun Estate on the high, wet, windy, peaty Whitelee Plateau. In 1921 they and the rest of the Estate farms were sold to the tenants when the Estate was broken up. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Forestry Commission bought them, along with many other steadings, when it was planting 6000 ha of the moorland as the new Whitelee Forest. The farmlands were planted with Sitka spruce, except for their inbyes; the Forestry Commission let each steading and its inbye to forest squad workers to run as smallholdings. Squad members ran the smallholdings as well as doing their heavy manual work in the forest! There were 10 such smallholdings in the Forest on the Whitelee Plateau.

When, in the late 20th century, governments asked the Forestry Commission to sell off some assets, the steadings were sold to private buyers and made into attractive homes. Some are used for rural business enterprises; others are (were) just homes.

Substantial finances were spent by some new owners on modernisation. They were lived in until the new Whitelee Wind Farm came along early in the 21st century . . .

The residents of Whiteleehill, Croilburn and High Overmuir ‘left’ when told that very tall wind turbines would be built close to them – and they were sold to the Wind Farm. In due course they and other farm steadings on Whitelee became empty. High Allerstocks, in East Renfrewshire, has already been demolished. Imagine how the family, which lived in and worked it as a smallholding for over 30 years, must feel!

In my book: From Peat Bog to Conifer Forest: An Oral History of Whitelee, its Community and Landscape, people who lived on Whitelee Plateau during the 20th century tell the stories of their lives. They describe how they farmed the peat-bog landscape, foraged and caught wild food, and later, planted 6000 hectares of Sitka spruce forest by hand. Since the coming of the wind farm, parts of the ancient landscape, its old March Fences and carbon-holding peat have gone under miles of new roads, concrete turbine-bases and sub-stations. Thankfully, at least some of the old graves have been left.

Thinking of Scotland’s history, it is difficult to understand how organisations can consider demolishing large, good quality, stone-built, 17th and 18th century farmhouses and their farm buildings. They were designed in a U shape, with the house at the bottom of the U, the byre and barns forming the sides and all joined into one unit.

The wind turbines will live for 25 years, the farmhouses have already been there for more than two centuries.

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Corals

Coral reefs are formations of invertebrate animals whose pelagic larvae eventually settle down and become sedentary. They then grow and build up layers by depositing a hard outside surface around their bodies, forming a structure which is characteristic of each species. The compound animal inside puts out feathery tentacles from within the hard surface, to catch passing food in the moving currents.

Unfortunately, corals can be vulnerable to physical impacts, such as from fisheries, and to climatic changes, such as prolonged periods of warmer water.

The two photographs were provided by Derek Tittensor. The first shows a part of the Meso-American reef. It is a complex environment that provides lots of niches and habitat. The second picture shows a reef from the Tropical Pacific, over which two grey reef sharks are patrolling.

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Dragonflies and Damselflies in the Forest

Our November in south-west Scotland has been the best month for sunshine since May! So records of dragonflies in August are most welcome. Andy Tittensor has just sent details of dragonflies and damselflies which were busy flying and mating on a friend’s large pond on a high ridge in the middle of Muirhead Forest, Ayrshire.

Mating pair of Emerald Damselfly

Lots of both male and female Emerald Damselflies (Lestes sponsa) were visiting the pond at noon on 25th August: they were mainly amongst the luxuriant marginal vegetation. Some of the females were laying eggs (‘oviposting’), which means that the species is breeding there. This pond, on moorland within Sitka spruce forest, is typical habitat for the Emerald Damselfly, which prefers acidic pools with well-vegetated margins.

Mating pair of Emerald Damselfly

The photographs show the males attached to the females; the amount of blue ‘pruinescence’ increases as a male gets older. Females are larger, straight metallic green and have a thicker abdomen.

Emerald Damselfly pair, female 'oviposting'

From the wooden causeway, Andy also saw two male Common Hawker Dragonflies

(Aeshna juncea) flying over the pond, occasionally landing for a few seconds on the edge. These dragongflies were, typically, constantly on the move, flying in a fast zig-zag pattern – so photographs were out-of-focus, but good enough to confirm identification.

The Common Hawker is a western & northern species, which prefers acidic or neutral waters on heathland or moorland, up to 600m altitude: this pond is at 300m. Again, ideal habitat!

Dragonflies and Damselflies have large eyes on their head, then a wide, shiny thorax and then a long, narrower abdomen – these show clearly on the photos.

Roll on next summer!

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