Here’s why your sustainable tuna is also unsustainable

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Not all tuna are caught using sustainable methods.
(Pixabay)

Megan Bailey, Dalhousie University

Tuna is one of the most ubiquitous seafoods. It can be eaten from a can or as high-end sashimi and in many forms in between. But some species are over-fished and some fishing methods are unsustainable. How do you know which type of tuna you’re eating?

Some tuna is certified as sustainably caught by groups such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) that set standards for sustainable fishing. But these certifications are only good if they are credible.

In late August, several media outlets published stories about On the Hook, a new campaign by a consortium of retailers and academics who have taken issue with some fishing practices allowed by the MSC. As a university professor whose research focuses on private seafood governance, including certifications and traceability, and fisheries policy, I am deeply familiar with the issues at hand. I support the campaign, but don’t stand to gain from the outcome.

The Western and Central Pacific skipjack tuna fishery is one of the world’s biggest. Some of the tuna caught here carries the MSC’s blue label, identifying it as the best environmental choice for consumers. But the same boats making that sustainable catch may also use unsustainable methods to catch unsustainable fish on the same day.

The On the Hook coalition sees this as at odds with the MSC certification, as do I. Yes, sustainable and unsustainable fish can be separated; there are people on board whose sole job is to do this. But rewarding fishermen for their sustainable catch, while allowing them to fish unsustainably, dupes consumers into supporting companies that take part in bad behaviour.

Does sorting work?

The On the Hook campaign singles out one fishery in particular: the “purse seine” fishery in the tropical western Pacific Ocean. This fishery covers the waters of eight island nations, including Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Under the Nauru Agreement, these nations, usually referred to as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), collectively control access to about one quarter of the world’s tuna supply.

Fishermen can use nets to catch free-swimming adult tuna and earn MSC certification for their catch. But these same fishermen can also use fish aggregating devices (FADs) — instruments that attract all kinds of marine life, including adult tuna, juvenile tuna and hundreds of species of sharks, turtles and other fish — to net their catch. Fishing on FADs is faster and less costly, but these devices are associated with high levels of bycatch, one of the main sustainability concerns in many fisheries. Fishing on FDAs does not earn MSC certification.

Fish aggregating devices attract ocean-going fish such as tuna.
(Shutterstock)

Under normal operations, the fishermen use both methods. “Compartmentalization” is a technique that allows the unsustainable portion of the fish to be separated on board the vessel from the sustainable portion. This is supposed to provide assurance to consumers that they are making a sustainable choice. Yet the negative environmental impacts connected to FAD fishing operations should surely also be considered in an MSC assessment. Currently, this does not happen.

Compartmentalization remains necessary because there isn’t enough of an economic advantage for companies to make only sustainable catches. It costs fishermen more to fish sustainably because they have to find the tuna, instead of waiting for it to come to the FAD.

A fleet using both methods can be part of a higher value premium market and earn financial security from the high volume, yet unsustainable, fishery. If purse-seining tuna vessels need to subsidize their sustainable fishing with unsustainable practices, then MSC certification has not provided the incentive it set out to.

A holistic fishery

Millions of tonnes of tuna have been fished from the waters of the Western and Central Pacific fishery. But the countries controlling these waters have not benefited to a large extent, mostly due to a lack of cooperation in bargaining for benefits, which allowed distant nations to exploit the fishery.

In the past decade, these Pacific Island states have increased their bargaining power in regional negotiations by implementing a scheme that controls the number of boats that can enter their waters. Under the program, called the vessel day scheme (VDS), these countries can now charge higher fees to boats that want access.

For example, PNA countries used to extract between three per cent and six per cent of the value of tuna fishery in their waters. Since their bargaining power has increased, they can now extract more than 14 per cent of the value, and this number is likely to continue to rise.

This is no small accomplishment for these Pacific Island nations, and other coastal state collectives are now trying to emulate their success. But this does not mean that all of the practices they allow are commendable, including those that are not representative of the “best environmental choice” in seafood.

On my Facebook feed, a colleague recently commented: “A Pacific Islander owned sustainably certified fishery is the wrong target.”

Let me clear up this misconception. The On the Hook campaign is not targeting the PNA, but the MSC. It would like the MSC to delay the recertification — authorized by the accreditation body in September — of the PNA fishery until the compartmentalization practice has been addressed. The fishery needs to be considered holistically.

A school of tuna.
(United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization/Danilo Cedrone), CC BY

For example, the MSC could specify that to earn a certification, a boat cannot fish sustainably and unsustainably on the same fishing trip. Consumer dollars should not be supporting the very practices the MSC condemns.

Another colleague remarked that because the PNA is challenging big industry, the On the Hook campaign might benefit big industry and hurt the PNA. In fact, it is the same boats, the same fleet, the same companies that are fishing MSC-certified tuna and on FADs.

Muddy waters

My colleagues also worry that the campaign calls into question the credibility of the MSC label. But this has actually become commonplace, with many groups pointing at examples of certified fisheries that are not sustainable. For example, the WWF has recommended that seafood buyers should stay away from MSC-certified Mexican tuna.

I would argue that the MSC is tarnishing itself by normalizing the practice of compartmentalization. It is no longer clear that fish carrying the MSC label offer the best environmental choice. Many Canadian fisheries, like lobster, herring, and Atlantic redfish, are MSC-certified. The faltering credibility of the MSC is a major risk for Canadian fish harvesters who rely on the MSC label to communicate their good fishing practices.

Additionally, Canadian consumers who are used to searching for the blue MSC check mark when they shop for seafood can no longer do so thinking that the logo conveys accurate information. Consumers need to know that the waters are muddy, that seafood sustainability is a moving target, and that it is not easy to make the right choice when standing in the aisle at the supermarket.

Governments and businesses need to make that choice easier for consumers. And they could start by dealing with compartmentalization in the PNA fishery — and elsewhere.

The PNA countries could also make demands. They could allow access rights only to vessels that agree to drop the practice of compartmentalization and that are transparent about their fishing practices.

The ConversationMore than anything, the MSC needs to take a good look at itself and remember what it is supposed to represent — the best environmental choice — not consumer confusion.

Megan Bailey, Assistant Professor, Canada Research Chair, Integrated Ocean and Coastal Governance, Dalhousie University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Dental tourism industry exploits workers in Mexico


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Research calls for global regulation of dental tourism – to prevent poor working conditions for local populations serving a wealth North American elite.
(Shutterstock)

Krystyna Adams, Simon Fraser University

The town of Los Algodones in Mexico is nicknamed “Molar City”. It has a population of just 6,000 people and, shockingly, it has more than 500 practising dentists. This has produced an intense clustering of dental clinics within a four block radius.

Many of these dentists chose to work in this town because of the tourist traffic, given its proximity to the Mexico-United States border. Thousands of Canadian and American tourists park their cars and walk across the border into Los Algodones to spend the day souvenir shopping, eating and drinking in the local restaurants, and purchasing alcohol, prescription drugs and dental care at lower costs than available back home.

In 2015 and 2016, I spent four months living in Los Algodones conducting interviews and participating in local events for a doctoral research project in health sciences at Simon Fraser University. My work investigates dental travel as part of the wider phenomenon of “medical tourism” — an industry that is growing rapidly as more and more patients seek access to new or more affordable medical treatments outside of their countries of residence.

My research raises concerns about exploitative industry practices in Los Algodones, Mexico. These include poor working conditions and discriminatory practices for employees in dental clinics, harassment of Indigenous street vendors and lack of access to dental care for local residents.

Inside ‘Molar City’

Most of the residents and employees I met during my research in Los Algdones were grateful for the much-needed economic benefits of the dental tourism industry. But I also heard concerns and frustrations from members of the local population. They felt that many of the industry activities were unfair and difficult to change.

One interviewee explained how dental tourists often come with prejudiced assumptions about Mexico, stating: “We see a lot of racism […] people trying to come here and saying, okay it is Mexico, I can ask for anything and pay you less.”

There are more than 500 dentists practising in dental clinics like this one in Los Algodones.
(Krystyna Adams), Author provided

Local residents and industry employees felt that dental tourists’ perceptions of Mexico as unsafe and underdeveloped are driving poor working conditions and discriminatory practices.

For example, employees work long hours to promote Los Algodones’ reputation for their employers as an ideal site to purchase dental care. Some also said they had experienced harassment from dental tourists negotiating lower prices and faster care.

Harassment of Indigenous vendors

Clinic employees and local residents also experience stressful interactions in the industry to meet the expectations of clinic owners. Some owners encourage employees to minimize their Mexican accents. This is done to distance Los Algodones from prejudiced perceptions of Mexico as an underdeveloped place with inferior medical care.

One participant described how a dental clinic owner offered to pay him to dump buckets of water on the heads of Indigenous souvenir vendors working near his clinic. Along with harassment, clinic owners also encourage Indigenous vendors to “stay cool, sell stuff cheap, and smile to people.” Many owners worry that the presence of Indigenous vendors might deter tourists by representing the underdeveloped Mexico of tourists’ imaginations.

Tourists enjoying a promotional party in support of Los Algodones’ dental tourism industry.
(Krystyna Adams), Author provided

Local residents struggle to access dental care

My research also revealed that dental clinic owners’ concerns about reputation can decrease access to dental care for local residents. Clinic owners suggested they’re too busy marketing their services and treating foreign patients to treat many locals. Some owners are using free X-rays to entice tourists, who shop around for their ideal care.

Most of the dental services in Los Algodones are also focused on the provision of major restorative treatment rather than preventative care, given the needs of dental tourists. Most local residents cannot afford this type of care. This is concerning as there are limited publicly funded dental care options available in this region of Mexico.

Overall, the “dental Shangri-la of the Mexican desert” is only an oasis for those able and willing to travel and pay for dental care. For many, the industry provides much-needed employment. But this might be stressful, unfair work for individuals unable to use the dental oasis for their own health needs.

The need for global regulation

Participation in the global medical tourism industry is increasing and research shows that this growth raises serious ethical challenges, at least in the industry’s current form. Researchers have raised concerns about the negative impacts on the health of local people who live and work in these medical tourism destinations.

My in-depth investigation of industry practices in the town of Los Algodones provides more evidence to support these concerns. It suggests the need for better global regulation of dental tourism and medical tourism more widely.

This regulation is needed to avoid competition between industry sites driving down labour standards in the global industry and diverting health resources away from populations in need. This regulation could enforce acceptable work conditions to avoid a race-to-the-bottom effect as industry sites try to attract customers to lower-cost, desirable medical care.

The ConversationMore information about these concerns could also help individuals participating in the industry to avoid harmful practices. It could remind medical tourists that cost savings for care might come at a cost to fair labour standards — and that they should allow sufficient time for treatment and be prepared to pay fair prices.

Krystyna Adams, Doctoral student in Health Sciences and SFU Medical Tourism Research Group, Simon Fraser University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Feeding pigeons

“I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me.
I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.” – Nikola Tesla

Why Brexit is a good thing

It is exposing flaws. It is shining a very bright light on all areas in which there has been room for a lot of improvement for a long time.

 

That improvement is only possible through major changes, and the halting of Brexit.

There is nothing new about the “mess” that Brexit has turned into. This situation, of British politicians making an ass of themselves, of the UK government thinking in “us” and “them” terms, and being unable to conduct negotiations at the international level has been in existence for many years. David Cameron was no better at it than Theresa May.

  • Want to recite another poem, Mr Johnson, and talk about a few more dead bodies that need to be moved out of the way?
  • The EU is the “enemy”, Mr Hammond? Really?

The Brexit mess shows very clearly that most British politicians lie all the time, that they are not striving to unite, but to divide and how they use humans to get what they want.

Most British voters believe the lies their politicians tell them. Because why else would they deliberately have voted for the destruction of their own future?  (Okay, some did that because they thought they would have no influence on what would happen next as the referendum was a non-binding one.)

The poorer and more powerless the masses are, the more power governments have.

In other countries too, many people are appalled about how the British government is currently using the three million Europeans – and other foreigners – in Britain as bargaining chip. But Britain doesn’t treat its own citizens any different.

The root cause of all the misery in the UK is a whopping degree of inequality, coupled to the fact that upward mobility is very limited here.

Class thinking lies at the base of all of this. The idea that there are “lesser” and “higher” humans – and the idea that your degree of humanity is measured as “net worth”.

How do we turn this class nonsense upside down?

Probably through a mass movement that consistently ridicules and devalues it.

By the way, where does Theresa May get her ill-fitting jackets from? This one seems to be missing one or more buttons. Did she dig it out of a tip somewhere?

Oh wait, the British have already been doing that for many years too…

Okay, I may have a better idea.

If you believe people are worthless, you make them worthless. If you believe someone cannot be trusted, you make that person untrustworthy. If you believe some people are powerful, you make them powerful.

Start every day with one thought. “Today, I am going to do at least one thing that will make someone else happy.” Regardless of who or what he or she is.

You won’t know what that one thing is until it happens.

 

PS

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PPS
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, a prime minister grabs his bicycle and rides it to the King’s palace to discuss the country’s new government.

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PPPS

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PPPPS

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Eat less meat, save species and ecosystems, says WWF UK

 

Indonesian folklore of vengeful female ghosts hold symbols of violence against women


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The female ghost in Indonesia’s most recent horror movie is scary. But the data on maternal mortality rates and sexual violence against women are scary too.
Rapi Films

Gita Putri Damayana, Indonesian Center for Law and Policy Studies (PSHK)

Indonesian moviegoers have had something to talk about these past two weeks. A top box-office movie by director Joko Anwar, Satan’s Slave, has a hair-raising ghost, called “Ibu” or “Mother”, haunting almost 2 million viewers. The millions were scared of “Ibu”, but I have scary data haunting Indonesian women and these ghosts are real.

In the annals of Indonesian folklore, female ghosts take centre stage. The country has kuntilanak, sundel bolong and Si Manis Jembatan Ancol. Most female ghosts in Indonesia were loving mothers or ordinary women before they started haunting the world with dark agendas.

Among the most popular ghosts are kuntilanak and sundel bolong; their narratives are reproduced in pop culture products, most notably movies.

Kuntilanak was a woman who died at childbirth (or died delivering a stillborn, according to another version). Sundel bolong was a woman who was raped and became pregnant, then died at childbirth.

Kuntilanak is said to have a penchant for haunting women during delivery and stealing newborns, while sundel bolong terrorises men walking alone in the dark of night.

The third one is Si Manis Jembatan Ancol, loosely translated into The Pretty One Haunting Ancol Bridge, referring to Ancol, an area in North Jakarta. Men were said to have raped and killed Si Manis in North Jakarta when she escaped her husband.

A different kind of female ghost, an outlier, is Nyai Roro Kidul, believed to be the ruler of the southern sea of Java, who becomes the mystical wife of each Mataram king.

To know more about the issue of women in Indonesia’s ghost folklore, read Indonesian fictions, Sihir Perempuan (Black Magic Woman) and Kumpulan Budak Setan (Devil’s Slaves Club), by author, scholar and feminist Intan Paramaditha.

‘Kuntilanak’: victim of poor access to healthcare

There’s a thread connecting the female ghosts beyond their gender: most of them are victims.

Of course, no scientific evidence supports the existence of these ghosts. But the background story of each ghost shares similar themes. These women were victims of gender inequality and sexual violence. They also had poor access to healthcare.

Indonesian Health Ministry data show the maternal mortality rate in 2015 reached 305 per 100,000 live births. The average rate in the Asia-Pacific region in 2015 was 127, while the average in developed countries is 12 per 100,000 live births.

The ministry data showed the top two causes of deaths in 2013 were post-partum bleeding (30.3%) and preeclampsia (27.1%). These deaths could have been avoided had the women had access to proper care.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s data on sexual violence, experienced by both Si Manis and sundel bolong, are also harrowing. The Central Statistics Bureau surveyed 9,000 women respondents in 2016 and reported that one in three Indonesian women aged 15-64 has experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.

In another report, the bureau recorded 1,739 reported rape cases in 2015, higher than robbery using sharp weapons or firearms, which reached 1,097 in the same year.

But “Ibu”, the woman in the movie set in 1981, would probably have a better fate today compared with her fate then. She was lying helpless for three years without a proper diagnosis. In 2017, at least, she would probably have received a better diagnosis thanks to Indonesia’s universal healthcare, BPJS Kesehatan, implemented since 2014.

Don’t let there be another ‘sundel bolong’

Of course juxtaposing the stories of Indonesian female ghosts with real data is only a way for me to highlight an important issue using folklore and a popular culture product.

But the popular ghosts’ stories reveal the close connections between violence against women and access to healthcare for women in the distant past. As the maternal death rate shows, the state of healthcare for Indonesian women today remains grim.

Perhaps, we would not have the story of kuntilanak haunting young mothers and their newborns had more real live Indonesian women survived child labour and deliver healthy babies.

Si Manis‘s violent rape and murder story is said to have originated from a true story in Dutch colonial time. Today, the streets of 21st-century Jakarta are not yet safe for women.

Sundel bolong’s unwanted pregnancy, a result of rape, could have been avoided if she received adequate reproductive healthcare. Indonesia has issued a regulation legalising abortion for rape victims, but its implementation remains elusive.

Harsh punishment for rapists would have also spared sundel bolong from having to haunt those villains on her own. An online survey by women NGOs last year revealed 93% of rapes were not reported. Data from a 2013 masculinity survey by women’s crisis centre Rifka Annisa showed only 21.5% of respondents who admitted to committing sexual violence suffered legal consequences.

High maternal mortality rate, sexual violence: the real ghosts

The plights of these women ghosts, as told by the older generations, serve as a warning about the state of Indonesian women today. The numbers and data should be scary stories for Indonesian women.

Policymakers should pursue systematic changes, or we will forever see more women sharing the plights of sundel bolong, kuntilanak and Si Manis Jembatan Ancol.

The ConversationIf we don’t improve reproductive health services for women and let impunity reign among sexual violence perpetrators, we will continue the legacy of the female ghosts to our next generation. Not only in movies, but in real life as well.

Gita Putri Damayana, Researcher at PSHK and lecturer at Jentera Law School, Indonesian Center for Law and Policy Studies (PSHK)

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.