Lowy Institute Discounts Antarctic Environment to Zero.


Australia’s Lowy Institute has condemned Sea Shepherd and the Bob Brown Foundation for (‘breathlessly’) filming the giant krill-killing ships plundering the Southern Ocean off Antarctica. – https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/krill-campaign-less-thrilling

In a gratuitous attack on environmentalists moving to save the Southern Ocean from the impact of the industrial krill extraction, Australia’s Lowy Institute has come out gunning on behalf of the krillers.

This parallels the institutional attacks on Sea Shepherd’s successful campaign to stop whaling in Antarctic waters a decade ago, and will have the same result. It will help the campaigners raise public awareness of the growing threats to the Southern Ocean’s ecosystem. For that we have to be grateful.

However the Lowy Institute’s Claire Young’s long essay avoids the question of the impact of krill extractors on Antarctica’s living ecosystem. Young gets in the obligatory nod to the argument by saying that Sea Shepherd’s ‘latest campaign is against krill fishing in the Southern Ocean – the crucial food supply for whales, seals and penguins. Only ironically, Sea Shepherd’s demands may actually harm the very protections already in place. That includes the impact on the whales, penguins and seals which depend upon krill as their staple food source.’

If you are a mouthpiece for needlessly plundering natural resources, get around the immorality of it by arguing that not plundering them is even more harmful. Obstructing Japanese whale killers is piracy. Defending wild forests in one’s own country will increase logging in another country. Opposing industrial fish farms polluting coastal waters is an attack on jobs and growth. Spare the rod and you’ll spoil the child.

But, as if knowing that won’t wash with an environmentally-alarmed Australian public, Young then plays the legitimacy card: ‘these vessels are there legally, registered with the Commission for the Conservation of Marine Living Resources that manages Antarctic waters. CCAMLR has scientists on board many krill vessels – they would have seen the whales feeding around the boats that Sea Shepherd breathlessly reported – and also monitors fishing vessels’ movements remotely.’

Just like the Japanese government maintained the legitimacy of whaling until, largely because Sea Shepherd had shown the world what a bloody but commercially illegitimate industry that was, the International Court of Justice ruled against it. By then, thousands of whales had been illegally and cruelly harpooned to death.

The driving force for vacuuming krill off the tables of those whales, penguins and seals is profits. That CCAMLR regulates it may give a legitimacy agreed by the nations involved but makes no difference to the fact that this industry tramples over the fundamental law of nature. When you plunder a food chain you plunder every species dependent on that food chain. And in the case of krill, the pressure is on CCAMLR to raise the plunder limits.

It would have been good of Ms Young to justify the need for krill extraction but she ducked that altogether. Because there is no need. While much of the process is clouded in commercial secrecy, this industry is servicing the rich world’s food supplement, fish farm and even pet food industry’s. In parallel with the ongoing plunder of Antarctica’s pelagic fisheries – Patagonian tooth fish and Antarctic ice fish – this is about servicing wealthy nation’s tables and luxuries and not feeding the world’s poor. It is driven by profiteering at helpless nature’s expense.

So when Sea Shepherd and the Bob Brown Foundation move to help nature, it is no surprise that an outfit like the Lowy Institute, funded by unsuspecting Australian taxpayers as well as big business (BHP, Capital Group, Rio Tinto, Rothschild & Co etc.) jumps to industries defence. Let me be clear that, never the less, the institute is welcome to weigh into this issue, just as we are. But the motivation is different. We want to protect Antarctica, the Lowy Institute is with those who want to exploit it.

Both sides will be glad of CCAMLR. This commission was established for the purpose it’s name spells out – the conservation of Antarctica’s marine living resources. But it is beholden to governments and subject to the same forces wanting to make money out of those resources which lobby and capture government policy around the world.

In the face of that, poor CCAMLR has been required to permit krill extraction but, so far, limited the bag to 600,000 tonnes per year and, of course, the pressure is on to raise that limit. The Lowy Institute can say if it backs the limit being raised.

Just as our foundation can say that no krill fishing is the right limit if nature’s welfare comes first. Ms Young may have gauged the Sea Shepherd reportage as being ‘breathless’ but that’s because seeing enormous ships reeling in the krill amongst scores of whales dependent on that ancient food store for their existence, will take the breath away from ordinary people who did not know such a ransacking of the resource was occurring, let alone ‘legitimate’.

Then the Lowy Institute plays its lowest card. Ms Young writes that (China is) likely to imply Sea Shepherd is an Australian proxy by misrepresenting its collaboration with the Bob Brown Foundation and the vessel’s funding by Australian individuals. Australian diplomats will have to spend time pointing out that Sea Shepherd is independent of the government, distracting from the push for an East Antarctic Marine Protected Area.

So, if you campaign to save the Earth you are actually aiding and abetting it’s destruction. Just like the Suffragettes were really out to wreck the economy by allowing women a say.

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