Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Hampshire Police protecting illegal hunting

Newly released today- video of the totally disgraceful state of affairs on the Isle of Wight as police do nothing to stop illegal interference with a badger sett and contraventions of the Hunting Act. A national scandal is taking place on the Isle of Wight in regards to illegal hunting.





Friday, 11 September 2009

Pirate for the Sea – Barbican Centre, 28 September 2009

Mark Sanders-Barwick, Sea Shepherd UK’s Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator, will be introducing the UK’s first screening of the utterly compelling film festival hit "Pirate for the Sea" a biographical film of Captain Paul Watson.

Paul was the youngest founding member of Greenpeace Canada. He organized early campaigns protesting the killing of seals, whales, and dolphins. After leaving Greenpeace he started his own organization, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, believing in non violent direct action. Paul went on to intervene against illegal fishing and marine habitat destruction issues worldwide, he stopped Canadian seal hunts for ten years, permanently halted sealing in the British Isles, halted the killing of dolphins on Iki Island, Japan, and is most famous for his actions to protect whales in Antarctica. This documentary witnesses his latest campaigns and explores the personal and environmental history of this passionate marine conservationist.

After the documentary, Mark will be taking questions from the audience on Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The performance starts at 20:45
Cinema 2
Barbican Centre
Silk Street

Tickets prices are as follows: Standard - £7.50 online (£9.50 full price) / Barbican Members - £6.50 online (£7.50 full price) / Concessions £7.50]

A Pirate for the Sea is rated certificate 15

For more information and to purchase tickets on line visit:

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

BIG GREEN GATHERING SHUT DOWN - Road Closure Order dated 20th July

When is a Road closure not a road closure?

The injunction to stop the Big Green Gathering cited the fact that the Big Green Gathering could not gain a Road Closure order in time for the event, despite the fact that the Highways Department had told the Big Green Gathering Chair, Brig Oubridge that it would be done. On Tuesday, 28th July, after the Big Green Gathering had been forced to cancel the event, a staff member found the Road Closure Order by a hedge on the Cheddar Road and subsequently another was found still pinned to a gatepost. Other signs appeared to have been taken down and evidence of the silver tape was still in place.

The Big Green Gathering surrendered its licence on the advice of its lawyers because it believed that it was impossible to obtain a road closure order in the time available. It now appears that the order was in place from 20th July 2009. We find it difficult to understand why the Council and the police did not check to ensure that the order had not been made before they issued their intentions to go to court at 6.54 p.m. on Friday, 24th July 2009. The Big Green Gathering on the other hand had no way of contacting the Highways Authority after the offices had closed for the weekend. The Big Green Gathering also finds it strange that no witness statement was received from the Highways Authority in support of the assertion that there was no road closure order in place. A copy of the road closure order appears below.

The Somerset County Council highways department are now saying that this was not a road closure order. "These physical notices are purely for information purposes and are adverts for proposed road closures and temporary speed limits, rather then a copy of a Temporary Traffic Order. They were required as part of the procedure for temporary road closure and restrictions."

The Big Green Gathering organisers recognise the tremendous disappointment this has caused to those who bought tickets, traders and the locals. The Big Green Gathering normally brings in the order of £2million to the local economy and many local businesses are suffering in these times of recession because of the cancellation of the festival. The BGG had already spent over £200,000 on police, security, infrastructure and site wages.




THE SOMERSET COUNTY COUNCIL in exercise of its powers under Section 14-16 of the Road Traffic regulation Act 1984 as amended, and of all other enabling powers, hereby makes the following Temporary Notice:-

1. This Notice shall come into operation on Monday 26th July 2009 and will continue in force until Monday 3rd August 2009.

The Following restrictions and prohibitions are made:-

A) To prohibit all traffic from proceeding along Nordrach Lane, from its junction with the B3134 to its junction with Cheddar Road, and Cheddar Road, from its junction with Nordrach Lane to its junction with the B3134

B) Temporary restriction of speed to 40mph on the B3134 from 500 meters South East of the junction with the B3371 in a North Westerly direction for a distance along said length of road of 2500 meters.

C) Temporary Prohibition of Waiting and Stopping of Vehicles on the B3134 from its junction with Old Bristol Road to its junction with Ubley Drove and the B3371 from its junction with the B3134 for a distance of 1250 metres.

These prohibitions are made by reason of the likelihood of danger to the public or of damage to the highway.

S Davidson-Grant

Corporate Director for the Environment

Dated the 20th July 2009

Friday, 17 July 2009

The Sea Shepherd Dragon Boat Challenge

This Sunday, myself and a team from Sea Shepherd UK will be taking part in the Dragon Boat Challenge in Kingston-Upon-Thames.

Please sponsor me to support the vital work of Sea Shepherd UK.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Pig Business - More 4

Tomorrow evening at 10pm - More 4 will broadcast PIG BUSINESS, a shocking exposé of the secretive world of corporate pig farming, created by environmental activist, the Marchioness of Worcester, Tracy Louise Ward,

The documentary focuses on Smithfield Foods and the true cost of 'cheap' pig meat - the appalling conditions of factory farms endured by animals, workers and neighbours, environmental pollution and the destruction of rural economies. It is a truly shocking program with huge implications that go far wider than animal rights concerns.

Smithfield would rather that you did not see this documentary. In fact, they previously blocked a planned broadcast in April of Pig Business on Channel 4 and unsuccessfully tried to block a recent screening at the Barbican Arts Centre in London (the Marchioness put up her own indemnity and got it through).

Even national newspapers wishing to report on the film have been bullied into silence. The Mail, The Sunday Mail and The Mirror, have all tried but failed to get an article about the film past their lawyers.

Smithfield Foods, the corporation at whose plant in Mexico the latest outbreak of swine flu is believed to have originated, "processes" 27 million pigs in 15 countries, producing sales of $12bn every year. Smithfield has denied any link to the outbreak.

Experts have been warning for years of the time bomb that is factory farming.
Incubating in the huge, overcrowded industrial pig farms of the USA and Europe swine flu is spreading at an alarming rate: 30,000 cases (and rising) within three months, across 74 countries, leading to 145 deaths.

Smithfield and other huge corporations, so big they have bank balances larger than those of most countries, control much of the food business. And they don't believe in farming. Forget the quant picture of farmer and his wife with a smallholding and happy, free roaming animals. Time to smell the coffee! All the time consumers want cheap meat, these companies will prosper and the factory methods they employ will breed more and more virulent diseases.

As Dr Michael Greger of the US Humane Society said in a recent File on 4 documentary: "The sheer numbers of animals, the overcrowding, the lack of fresh air, the lack of sunlight -put all these together and you have this perfect storm.

Smithfield Foods has moved into Eastern Europe with the force of a factory engine, assembling networks of farms, breeding pigs on the fast track, and slaughtering them.

This has caused an upheaval in the pig farm belts of Poland and Romania, the two largest E.U. members in Eastern Europe that ranks as one of the Continent's biggest agricultural transformations.

Smithfield's global approach is clear; its chairman, Joseph Luter III, has described it as moving in a "very, very big way, very, very fast." In less than five years, Smithfield enlisted politicians in Poland and Romania, tapped into hefty European Union farm subsidies and fended off local opposition groups to create a conglomerate of feed mills, slaughterhouses and climate-controlled barns housing thousands of pigs.

It moved with such speed that sometimes it failed to secure environmental permits or inform the authorities about pig deaths - lapses that emerged after swine fever swept through three Romanian pig compounds in 2007, two of which were operating without permits. Some 67,000 pigs died or were destroyed, with infected and healthy pigs shot to stanch the spread.

In the United States, Smithfield says it has been a boon to consumers. Pork prices have dropped by about one-fifth between 1970 and 2004.

In Romania, the number of pig farmers has declined 90 percent - to 52,100 in
2007 from 477,030 in 2003, with ex-farmers, overwhelmed by Smithfield's lower prices, often emigrating or shifting to construction. In their place, the company employs or has contracts with about 900 people and buys grain from about 100 farmers.

In Poland, there were 1.1 million pig farmers in 1996. That number fell 56 percent by 2008, as the advent of modern farming methods transformed agriculture.

The impact on the environment is even more marked. With almost 40 farms in western Romania, Smithfield has built enormous metal manure containers to inject waste into the soil.

Smithfield farms in Romania's Timis County are among the top sources of air and soil pollution, according to a local government report, which ranked the company's individual farms No. 13 through No. 40. The report also indicates that methane gases in the air rose 65 percent between 2002 and 2007.

Taxpayers footed part of the bill; Smithfield tapped into millions of euros in subsidies - from a total of €50 billion available in the E.U. last year - that are meant to encourage modern farming balanced with care for the environment.

In a similar chain of consequences, separate subsidies mined by Smithfield helped support the export of cheap pork scraps from Poland to Africa, where some pig farmers also are giving up because they cannot compete.

Every stage of a pig's life - from artificial insemination to breeding genetic characteristics - is controlled. A handful of employees tend thousands of pigs that spend their lives entirely indoors, under constant lighting, to spur growth. Sows churn out litters three or four times a year. Within 300 days, a pig weighing roughly 120 kilograms, is ready for slaughter.

Smithfield fine-tuned its approach in the depressed tobacco country of eastern North Carolina in the 1990s. In 2000, money started flowing from a Smithfield political action committee in that state and around the United States. North Carolina lawmakers helped fast-track permits for Smithfield and exempted pig farms from zoning laws.

As Smithfield flourished, the number of American pig farms plunged 90 percent - to 67,000 in 2005 from 667,000 in 1980. Some farm states grew wary. When Hurricane Floyd struck North Carolina in 1999, torrential rain breached six pig waste lagoons, prompting the authorities to impose a construction moratorium on new pig farms using lagoons.

Missouri, too, pressed Smithfield to install technology to reduce odor. In Iowa, Smithfield lobbyists fended off efforts to force meatpackers to purchase pigs on the open market instead of using only their livestock.

Facing more restrictions in the United States, Smithfield took its North Carolina game plan to Poland and Romania, where the company moved nimbly through weak economies and political and regulatory systems.

Today Smithfield is the biggest pork producer in Romania, where it owns an enormous meatpacking plant, almost 40 pig farms and croplands sprawling over
50,000 acres. In Poland, the company employs 500 farmers to raise pigs that are bound for its Communist-era slaughterhouse, Animex.

Romania pays a levy of around 30 euros per pig raised suggesting that, by producing 600,000 a year, Smithfield was eligible for 18 million euros in special national subsidies intended to improve the leanness of pigs. Newly released Romanian data show the company collected almost €300,000 in cropland subsidies last year and more than €200,000 in special funding for new European Union states. In Poland, Smithfield reaped more than €2 million for its subsidiary Agri Plus.

When it first arrived in Eastern Europe, Smithfield courted top politicians in both Poland and Romania, the latter a particularly poor country of 23 million with a weak government and under constant E.U. pressure over corruption.

In the post-Communist disorder, it is essential to know your way about. In Bucharest, Smithfield turned to Nicholas Taubman, a wealthy Republican businessman who was the U.S. ambassador to Romania during the administration of President George W. Bush. Mr. Taubman escorted Smithfield's top executives during meetings with the Romanian president and prime minister and president.
Once the top leaders in Romania showed their support for Smithfield, developments fell into place; about a dozen Smithfield farms were designed by an architectural firm owned by Gheorghe Seculici, a former deputy prime minister with close ties to President Traian Basescu of Romania, who is godfather to his daughter.

Further help came from a familiar front: Smithfield's lobbyist, the Virginia firm McGuireWoods, set up a Bucharest office in 2007 to liaise between Smithfield and the Romanian government. In many ways McGuireWoods was the perfect choice; it had also represented Romania for three years to press its NATO-membership campaign.

Mr. Basescu, the president, was not shy in acknowledging the company, which he praised at a joint news conference with President George W. Bush at a NATO summit meeting last year. Smithfield was also very visible in its appreciation: It contributed $20,000 to pay for Romanian ceremonial uniforms at the summit meeting, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The connections in the upper reaches of government meant that Smithfield could weather protests from local communities. The company was fined €9,000 for spilling manure on a local highway while transporting waste from a leaking container; €35,000 for a leaking bin that seeped pig waste into soil; another €35,000 for four farms operating without permits in Arad County; and €18,500 for not preventing water pollution.

Some villagers, however, concentrate on the advantages. "I have land near them and there's no problem," Dorin Mic Aurel, mayor of Masloc, said. Smithfield is the biggest taxpayer in Masloc, contributing $27,000 yearly that helped bring running water to the village.

But Smithfield found it hard to overcome fallout from the swine fever outbreak that struck Cenei. At the time, pig corpses lay in heaps, and residents remember chaotic efforts to shoot and burn them. That particular strain affects only pigs, but scientists have found elements of swine viruses - one from Europe or Asia, the other from North America - in the genetic code of the new influenza A(H1N1) virus.

When Ioan Ciprian Ciurdar, deputy mayor of Cenei, said that the stench from nearby farms was overpowering, Smithfield responded that a heat wave was to blame.

Smithfield contends that "it is impossible to know" why the pigs got sick, while noting a breakdown in the supply of government-supplied swine flu vaccines.

"Thousands of piglets were born," Mr. Seculici, the architect, said. "There was no place to put them because the new farms weren't finished. Nobody admits this, but this was the cause of swine flu. They were forced to improvise."

Smithfield acknowledges that it placed young pigs on farms under construction, but insists that doing so had no impact on health.

When it came to cleanup, Smithfield again turned to special E.U. subsidies, requesting €11.5 million in compensation. But the local authorities balked at the demand, outraged that the epidemic was taking place on unlicensed farms, which they accused of lax bio-security measures.

A special mission of the European Commission confirmed some of their complaints, finding that Smithfield had failed to submit regular reports on the deaths of its pigs and that employees moved freely between farms despite suspicions of swine fever.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Whale Wars released on DVD in the UK on 8 June

This fascinating series commenced its seven-week run on Discovery Channel on 27 April 2009 and will be released on DVD on 8 June 2009 courtesy of Demand DVD.

They are some of the most beautiful creatures to inhabit the oceans; graceful, intelligent and mysterious. But the planet’s whale population is constantly under assault from the threat of human whaling fleets. Thankfully they have found some protection in the form of The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a band of environmentalists whose ongoing struggle to protect these magnificent giants of the sea is highlighted in the adrenaline-fuelled Whale Wars.

The goal of Captain Paul Watson (Greenpeace co-founder) and his eco-pirates is simple; to eradicate whaling, poaching, shark finning and habitat destruction by any means necessary. Following the crew on a three-month search across the dangerous waters of the Antarctic Ocean, they attempt to hunt down and stop the Japanese whaling fleets from slaughtering these magnificent sea animals in the name of ‘research’.

Follow the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as they wage war against the gigantic Japanese vessels and put their lives on the line to protect the creatures that they love. This captivating series captures all the drama as it unfolds; including multiple engagements, capsizing, possible hostage taking and an alleged shooting that sparked a global media event, all in the perilous oceans of one of the most hostile environments on earth.

Whales are some of the most endangered species on the planet. Growing to sizes that dwarf any animal that has ever lived, these magnificent creatures are constantly under threat from the human species, be it through the climate change that ravishes their feeding grounds, sonar interference from military and commercial vessels and hunting fleets.

In an effort to turn the tide in the favour of the cetaceans, the radical environmentalists at the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society do what they feel no one else is willing to do in order to protect these kings of the sea.

‘Riveting’ - Time Out

'Amazing Stuff' - The Guardian Guide

'Rarely has amateurism been so enthralling - or hazardous - to watch' - Radio Times


THE END OF THE LINE - In UK Cinemas from 8 June

The End of the Line, the first major feature documentary film
revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans

The End Of the Line was filmed over two years and shows first hand the effects of our global love affair with fish as food. The film examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna, brought on by increasing western demand for sushi; the impact on marine life resulting in huge overpopulation of jellyfish; and the profound implications of a future world with no fish that would bring certain mass starvation.

Tickets for preview screenings at cinemas on World Oceans Day, Monday 8 June, are now available from

On Monday 1 June, a preview screening was presented at The Imax Cinema at the Science Museum. Sea Shepherd Director Steve Roest and Shore Crewmember Mark Sanders-Barwick were invited to the preview and discussed the plight of the Oceans with Charles Clover - Author of The End of the Line, Rupert Murray - Director and Producer – George Duffield.

From left: Sea Shepherd UK Director Steve Roest, author of
"The End of the Line" Charles Clover, and Sea Shepherd UK Shore
Crewmember Mark Sanders-Barwick

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Iceland resumes commercial whaling

Iceland's whaling season has begun in defiance of protests from animal rights groups that have called for an end to the practice and after international calls for Iceland to reduce whaling quotas.

Whalers on board the Johanna AR vessel have stated that they hope to catch the first Minke today. The first whales are usually killed in a bay just outside of Reykjavik as whaling is banned close to the harbour. Ironically, the restrictions are to protect the whale watching businesses, which are popular with tourists.

Managers of the minke whaler association said 50 to 60 per cent of the meat would be sold domestically, while the rest is sold to Japan.

However, the Japanese public is not really buying. While the Japanese Fisheries Agency claims that up to 5000 tonnes of whale meat are consumed every year in this country, estimates suggest that at least 3000 tonnes are now sitting unwanted in cold storage in Japan.

Despite falling market prices, and regular government efforts to "educate" the population by way of academic lectures, food festivals, and compulsory school lunches, whale meat remains a dish that few modern Japanese have eaten more than twice. Not because it is scarce, they just don't like it.

Iceland and Norway are the only two countries in the world that authorise commercial whaling. Japan officially hunts whales for scientific purposes, which are contested by opponents, and the whale meat is sold for consumption.

On January 27th, immediately before Iceland's coalition government was dissolved, Einar K. Guðfinnsson, the outgoing Minister of Fisheries and a leading member of the conservative Independence Party, issued a regulation permitting the massive whaling of minke and fin whales.

In March, the Minister of Fisheries, Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, leader of the Left-Green Party, announced that he would not repeal his deposed predecessor's last-minute order to resume commercial whaling of 150 endangered fin whales and 100 threatened Minke Whales from May to late September until 2013. Sigfússon stated that Guðfinnsson’s decision could not be repealed for "legal" reasons.

Prior to Sigfússon's announcement, Iceland, which pulled out of an international whaling moratorium in 2006 after 16 years, had a quota of just nine fin whales and 40 minke whales per year.

National elections were held in Iceland in April and a new coalition government, of the Social Democrat Alliance and the Left-Green Movement formed the Icelandic parliament, Althingi.

The two party leaders, Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir and Finance Minister Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, set out goals to rebalance the state budget by 2013 while at the same time implementing an ambitious plan of job creation.

At the same time, they emphasised their joint intent for the Althingi to decide whether Iceland will commence accession negotiations with the EU and for an overall revision of the Act on Fisheries Management to be carried out, in accordance with the coalition parties’ platforms.

It is abundantly clear that the resumption of commercial whaling is a ‘quick-fix’ for the economy and a short-term employment solution. However, with a surfeit of whale meat in storage in Japan and falling prices, this solution is doomed to failure and will only provoke calls for an International boycott of Icelandic goods and services.

Would it not be better and more sustainable to promote a tourism based and whale watching industry? Consider also that falling fish stocks and tighter quotas will place even larger economic and employment pressure on the country. Surely, more justification exists for an economy based on wildlife observation than wildlife destruction?

Iceland is kidding itself that a boycott would be ineffectual. Bauger, a company owned by Icelandic Banks owns 100% of the following retail UK chains: Karen Millen, French Connection, Iceland Frozen Seafoods, Hamleys and The House of Fraser. A boycott in the UK alone would have disastrous implications for the Icelandic economy.

Europe should be asking whether it wants another whaling nation and another IWC puppet in the union and not Iceland asking itself whether it wants to join.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

SOS for the PO

In the next few hours the unelected House of Lords will vote on the Government's Royal Mail privatisation proposal, and the Bill will then be sent to MPs in the Commons.

Recently the Communications Workers Union (CWU) commissioned the independent polling firm ICM to ask voters how they felt about the Royal Mail. They found that three quarters of the British people do not want our post to be sold and that voters think the sale would break a key Labour election manifesto promise.

The House of Lords should read the ICM poll very carefully - 27% of those polled say they are less likely to vote for their current MP if they back the proposal to sell a 30% stake in the business. This figure rises to 36% for Labour supporters.

The polling is really clear. The public wants the Government listen to voters and reconsider their plans.

Last week the Royal Mail announced a £321 million profit. So Royal Mail is a profitable going concern - and everything must be done to avoid the job cuts and service cuts that TNT or a private equity owner would bring.

The ICM poll showed that people rightly thought that services could suffer whilst prices rise under a Royal Mail controlled by a private company like TNT.

The Green Party is against privitisation of the Post office and all Public Services. We would scrap the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and fund public services properly.

Please support the CWU’s campaign against Post Office privitisation by signing their petition at:

Friday, 15 May 2009

Shark-Repellent Metal Alloys Available For Sale; 'Able To Reduce Shark Bycatch'

KEY WEST, Florida -- SharkDefense Technologies and HEFA Rare Earth Canada, Co. Ltd. announced today that shark-repellent metal alloys are available for sale. The metal alloys are proven to reduce the accidental capture of sharks and are anticipated to benefit many commercial fishing operations.

The shark-repellent metal alloys work by generating a small voltage in seawater, which affects a shark's electric sense. Bony fish, such as tuna, do not have the organ responsible for the electric sense and are unaffected by the metals. While conducting experiments with magnets in 2006, SharkDefense discovered the shark-repelling effects of the metal alloys. The alloys induced repellent responses on sharks which were similar to those effects induced by the magnets.

Craig O'Connell, a partner with SharkDefense who has participated in the repellent trials pointed out that "through extensive testing on a variety of species of sharks, it is evident that these metals induce repellent responses which will allow fisherman to focus their effort on target species."

Application of the metal alloy repellent simply requires a small piece of metal to be secured near the bait at each hook. Continuously submerged in salt water, the metals last for up to 48 hours.

Dr. Patrick Rice, Director of Marine Science at Florida Keys Community College, carefully monitors the development of shark repellent technologies and advises that a number of recent "repellent tests performed by marine fisheries scientists and independent scientists confirm that these metals are able to reduce shark bycatch."

Remove the Nets

Remove the Nets: Join the Shark Angels' Campaign against Shark Nets!

shark in netIt is difficult to believe in this day in age, with all that we know about sharks' plummeting populations, their critical role in ocean ecosystems, and the minimal risk they pose to humans, that the archaic and destructive practice of installing shark nets for "bather protection" still exists. But in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa, a province ironically known around the world as one of the few places left where sharks and the ecosystems they keep healthy still thrive, untold numbers of harmless sharks, turtles, dolphins, and rays meet an untimely and senseless death each year by entanglement in the approximately 28 km of nets that are installed just off the beaches.

What are shark nets? Shark nets are essentially gill nets: long rectangular nylon mesh nets, 200-300 meters in length, that are positioned near the surface of the water and kept afloat with buoys. Sharks swim into these nets and are caught by their gills. The squares of mesh are designed to be just large enough for sharks to become entangled, but not escape. The more a shark or any other animal struggles in these nets, the more hopeless their situation becomes, and the more impossible their chances of escape and survival. The vast majority of these animals die an agonizing death by suffocation. Gill nets are widely considered to be one of the greatest threats to the survival of many species of marine animals.

In South Africa, the shark nets are installed in tiered patterns by the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board (KZNSB). Just beneath the surface, they do not fully extend to either the top or the bottom and do not even come close to fully enclosing the beach areas. The result is that sharks can easily swim around or under the nets and into the shallow waters in which humans swim and surf. In fact, the KZNSB acknowledges on its own website that at least 33% of the sharks killed in these nets were actually on their way OUT from the beaches, rather than on their way in, and other sources estimate that this number is closer to 70%.

You see, the goal is not to provide a physical barrier to keep sharks away from the beaches, but rather to control shark populations by culling them. In many cases, the KZNSB places baited drumlines just outside the shark nets, which are designed to attract sharks in towards the beaches and kill them, either by biting the baited hooks on the drumlines or by entanglement in the nearby gill nets.

The process is entirely unselective, with nets installed all along the coast, including in Marine Protected Areas! The sole purpose of these nets is to kill all sharks in the area, including highly endangered species that would otherwise enjoy stringent legal protection, such as whale sharks and the great white shark. According to the KZNSB's own website, "The Marine Living Resources Act (Act 18 of 1998) controls the exploitation of marine plants and animals in South African waters. . . . The great white shark is totally protected; in 1991 South Africa being the first country in the world to do so." And yet, the KZNSB, which is governed by the KZN Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism, is exempted from these important conservation regulations in the interest of making tourists feel safe.

Sea Shepherd's Director of Shark Conservation, Kim McCoy, a founding member of the Shark Angels alliance, was outraged to witness first-hand the carnage caused by South African shark nets. "Sharks and other animals don't stand a chance against these nets," said McCoy. "They are brutal, indiscriminate killers designed to systematically cull a species for no other reason than to boost tourism by giving beachgoers a false sense of security against a severely sensationalized threat."

Shark Angels co-founder, Julie Andersen, who frequently leads groups of people on diving trips with the tiger sharks of Aliwal Shoal, clearly illustrates the irony of using shark nets to increase tourism, noting the number of tourists who come to South Africa each year specifically to dive with sharks. "Sharks in South Africa contribute a significant amount of revenue to the South African economy and provide countless jobs," said Andersen. "Live sharks mean tourists, jobs, and money. And that is recurring income-not the one-time income generated when a shark is killed."

sea turtleOver the last three decades, more than 33,000 sharks have been killed in the KZNSB shark nets. And if that's not alarming enough, consider the 2,000+ turtles, 8,000+ rays, and 2,000+ dolphins who were also ensnared and killed.

In addition to the countless deaths of sharks and other species caused directly by the shark nets, their impact on our collective psyches is damaging to shark conservation efforts worldwide. The very existence of shark nets perpetuates the myth that sharks are bloodthirsty man-eaters, and that humans require some form of protection from them. The installation of shark nets reinforces our misguided and often irrational fears of sharks by legitimizing these concerns as valid. This in turn fuels the biggest issue faced in shark conservation: the public's apathy, or even loathing, towards sharks.

It could be said there was once a time and a place for shark nets. Perhaps decades ago, when the public knew little about sharks, the fear of shark attacks was running high, and shark populations were far healthier than they are today. The practice of installing shark nets in South Africa began in 1952, when little was known about sharks, and humans had yet to spend the next 50+ years ravaging our oceans, causing irreparable damage and the collapse of species after species. The public wanted "protection" from sharks, and shark nets served this purpose.

But since then, shark fishing has skyrocketed, eliminating a large percentage of the world's shark populations, and the public has been exposed to much information about the importance of biodiversity conservation and the true nature of shark behavior towards humans. In recent years, it has been proven that a variety of non-lethal shark deterrents, such as the Shark Spotters program funded by private donations and the City of Cape Town, can be equally effective, and that animals need not be killed to allow for peaceful coexistence in their domain. The need for shark conservation is now a well-established fact, as is the fact these animals are significantly misunderstood, with the actual risk of an unpleasant shark encounter infinitesimal.

Shark nets are an unnecessary and outdated practice designed to address an issue that could easily be tackled in a non-lethal way, and they blemish South Africa's image as a world leader in conservation. It is time for a change. It is time to get these shark nets out of the water, once and for all.


Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The suicidal tendencies of the Turkish tuna fishery

Karaburun, Turkey — The Turkish government has set its own catch limit for the endangered Mediterranean bluefin tuna - in total disregard for internationally agreed quotas and scientific advice.

The existing management plan for bluefin tuna is bad enough. By pressuring politicians to ignore the warnings of scientists, the Mediterranean tuna industry has created a suicide pact, not a management plan. Now Turkey, by objecting to even those inadequate restrictions, is telling its legal fleet to fish for everything it can before it's all gone. And to add insult to absurdity, there's still the illegal catch to consider -- and Turkey just got caught red-handed with an illegal landing of between 5 and 10 tonnes of juvenile bluefin tuna in the Turkish port of Karaburun. And this year's bluefin tuna fishing season is only just getting started!

Juvenile bluefin tuna below the minimum
landing size,stored on theunauthorised fishing
vessel Yasar Reis II, Turkey.

Turkey currently operates the largest Mediterranean fleet fishing for bluefin tuna, an economically and ecologically valuable species facing imminent collapse as direct result of overfishing. Northern bluefin tuna have long been an important part of the Mediterranean economy and way of life. In ancient Rome, tuna fishing and salting were two of the empire’s most stable industries. Today, virtually all bluefin tuna from the Mediterranean is exported to Japan creating vast profits over the last decade, which have fuelled an industry with no concern for the future of a species that has been reduced to critical levels, threatening its own future and those of hundreds of fishermen.

An international disgrace
Management of bluefin tuna is entrusted to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), an intergovernmental organisation in which the European Union is an active and influential member. In September 2008, an independent performance review of ICCAT noted that the management of the bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean was “widely seen as an international disgrace.” The Turkish government objected to the bluefin tuna quota that was agreed upon at the ICCAT meeting last November.

The last goodbye
Alongside ICCAT quotas, a minimum legal landing size is set at 30 kg to allow for at least one reproduction cycle before any catch. But catches below this limit have recently been reported by both Turkish and Italian media. Ignoring international quota limits means that Turkey will bring an end to the bluefin tuna business even faster through the commercial extinction of the species.

Since 2006, scientists have been sounding the alarm on the dire state of the bluefin tuna stock. They have advised not to fish above a maximum of 15,000 tonnes, and to protect the species’ spawning grounds during the crucial months of May and June. But the spawning grounds are ravaged by industrial fleets every year and the actual haul has been estimated at a shocking 61,100 tonnes in 2007, twice the legal catch for that year, and more than four times the scientifically recommended level. This year, a so called ‘recovery plan’ for bluefin tuna will legally allow fishing that is 47 percent above the maximum sustainable limit.
No fish, no future

Turkey, and all other fishing nations including European countries, should close the bluefin fishery immediately until management is in strict compliance with the scientific advice, fishing has decreased to sustainable levels and marine reserves are established to protect the bluefin breeding grounds.

Many conservation organization have documented at sea, and compiled numerous cases of illegal fishing in the Mediterranean, including fishing during closed seasons, catches of undersized tuna, illegal reflagging of fishing vessels, illegal use of spotter planes, unlicensed fishing vessels and tuna farms, unregulated transhipments, illegal landings and false declarations, substantial unreported over-catches and further increase of fishing fleet capacity. Since the fishing industry is now completely out of control and leading the bluefin tuna to near-extinction.

Conservationists are advocating the creation of a network of no-take marine reserves, protecting 40 percent of the world’s oceans, as the long term solution to the overfishing of tuna and other species, and the recovery of our overexploited blue planet.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


The End of the Line, the first major feature documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans. Filmed over two years, we see firsthand the effects of our global love affair with fish as food. The film examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna, brought on by increasing western demand for sushi; the impact on marine life resulting in huge overpopulation of jellyfish; and the profound implications of a future world with no fish that would bring certain mass starvation.

The Film

The world’s first major documentary about the devastating effect of overfishing premiered at Sundance Film Festival. Tickets for preview screenings at UK cinemas on World Oceans Day – Monday 8 June, now available from

Imagine an ocean without fish. Imagine your meals without seafood. Imagine the global consequences. This is the future if we do not stop, think and act.

A pile of dead fish

The End of the Line, the first major feature documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. Sundance took place in Park City, Utah, January 15-25, 2009.

In the film we see firsthand the effects of our global love affair with fish as food.

It examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna, brought on by increasing western demand for sushi; the impact on marine life resulting in huge overpopulation of jellyfish; and the profound implications of a future world with no fish that would bring certain mass starvation.

Filmed over two years, The End of the Line follows the investigative reporter Charles Clover as he confronts politicians and celebrity restaurateurs, who exhibit little regard for the damage they are doing to the oceans.

One of his allies is the former tuna farmer turned whistleblower Roberto Mielgo – on the trail of those destroying the world's magnificent bluefin tuna population.

Filmed across the world – from the Straits of Gibraltar to the coasts of Senegal and Alaska to the Tokyo fish market – featuring top scientists, indigenous fishermen and fisheries enforcement officials, The End of the Line is a wake-up call to the world.

The end of seafood by 2048

Scientists predict that if we continue fishing as we are now, we will see the end of most seafood by 2048.

The End of the Line chronicles how demand for cod off the coast of Newfoundland in the early 1990s led to the decimation of the most abundant cod population in the world, how hi-tech fishing vessels leave no escape routes for fish populations and how farmed fish as a solution is a myth.

The film lays the responsibility squarely on consumers who innocently buy endangered fish, politicians who ignore the advice and pleas of scientists, fishermen who break quotas and fish illegally, and the global fishing industry that is slow to react to an impending disaster.

The End of the Line points to solutions that are simple and doable, but political will and activism are crucial to solve this international problem.

We need to control fishing by reducing the number of fishing boats across the world, protect large areas of the ocean through a network of marine reserves off limits to fishing, and educate consumers that they have a choice by purchasing fish from independently certified sustainable fisheries.

The Science

Overfishing in 2009, by Charles Clover

Overfishing was recognised as one of the world's greatest and most immediate environmental problems in 2002, when it was first demonstrated that global catches of wild fish had peaked around 1989 and have since been in decline.


Globally, some 75 per cent of wild marine fish are now said to be either fully-exploited or overfished, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO). That means these species require conservation and management in order to survive in their present numbers - which they rarely receive.

The number of fish stocks recorded as fully or overfished worldwide is expected to increase significantly this year when the latest figures are published by the UN FAO.

The fish species in the worst shape are highly migratory oceanic sharks; fish that are exploited fully or partially on the high seas, such as the larger tunas; and shared stocks, such as the Patagonian toothfish or Chilean sea bass.

Aquaculture, or fish farming, now provides almost half of all the fish consumed by humans. In the West – but not in Asia - it is mostly carnivorous fish that are farmed. The growth of aquaculture has slowed as stocks of small fish used to feed larger fish are themselves overfished.

The North East Atlantic, which includes EU waters, is one of the worst areas in the world for overfishing – along with the western Indian Ocean and the North West Pacific, according to the UN FAO.

In European waters, some 80 per cent of stocks are recorded as overfished, according to the European Commission.

In UK waters, stocks of palatable fish, such as cod, have been reduced to less than 10 per cent of what they were 100 years ago. This compares with a global average of 25 per cent of stocks actively overfished.

The nation with the least overfishing problem is New Zealand, where only 15 percent of stocks are recorded as overfished. The problem is that in Europe some 50 per cent of the quotas set by politicians are higher than scientists say are sustainable.

The EU was instrumental in arguing for a quota of 22,000 tons of valuable bluefin tuna for next year at a meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas in Marrakech in November, even though scientists recommended a quota of only 15,000 tons to avert stock collapse.

The United States had called for a total ban on catching bluefin in the Mediterranean to allow stocks to recover from rampant overfishing, both illegal and legal.

The bleak future predicted for the sea by some scientists already exists in British waters, where in places overfishing has resulted in a simplified ecosystem vulnerable to total collapse.

In the Firth of Clyde, near Glasgow, the cod, haddock, saithe, brill and whiting have all been overfished. All there remains for fishermen to catch is Norway lobster, also known as

langoustine or scampi.

In the absence of cod, which eat diseased Norway lobsters, some 70 per cent of Norway lobsters are now afflicted by the parasite-borne ailment known as smoking crab disease.

Prospects for the Clyde fishermen are not good.

The Campaign

The End of the Line is not against fishing. It is not against eating fish. But it is for a responsible attitude towards the oceans.

The film has three messages for consumers, citizens and companies:

Ask before you buy:

only eat sustainable seafood.

Tell politicians:

respect the science, cut the fishing fleet

Join the campaign

for marine protected areas and responsible fishing

We hope that when people buy fish in a shop or in restaurant, they will ask where it comes from; whether it is from a sustainable source, whether it is an endangered or over-exploited species.

There are useful guides to what fish you can buy with a (fairly) clear conscience. In the UK one is produced by the Marine Conservation Society. You can find the guide on their website.

And the Marine Stewardship Council runs a certification scheme for fish produced according to principles of sustainability, which you can find out about on the MSC website

But we also want people to put pressure on politicians to listen to the scientists and act upon their recommendations. Write to your representative. Sign up to the Pledges.

And, finally, join the campaign to make more of the oceans protected areas, where industrial

fishing is not allowed and where fish stocks can replenish themselves.

At the moment only 3 per cent of the world's oceans are marine protected areas.

You can learn more about why they should be increased and those who are campaigning for them, on the websites on the Organizations page.

World Leaders and Organizations Speak Out on Overfishing

"Once considered inexhaustible, our oceans are now in a state of global crisis as more and more people compete for fewer and fewer fish. Overfishing threatens coastal communities and the food security of the millions who rely on marine fish as an important source of protein. Yet the solutions are in our hands, because what we buy for dinner tonight can determine whether tomorrow's generations will continue to enjoy the oceans' riches. Or not." WWF, the global conservation organization

"The vibrant beauty of the oceans is a blessing to our country. And it’s a blessing to the world. The oceans contain countless treasures. They carry much of our trade; they provide food and recreation for billions of people. We have a responsibility, a solemn responsibility, to be good stewards of the oceans and the creatures who inhabit them." President George W. Bush

"We know that when we protect our oceans, we’re protecting our future." President Bill Clinton

Prince Charles, who is president of the MCS, said it was a "wake-up call" that British seas were in need of urgent help. "There is simply nowhere in Britain's seas where marine life is effectively protected from human impacts," he said. "Never has it been so important to take immediate action to protect marine life." HRH Prince Charles, President, Marine Conservation Society

"The need for nations to agree on urgent action has never been more acute. Measures introduced over the next few years will determine what the future will hold in terms of food security, species survival and the ocean’s ability to withstand climate change, and those measures have to include a robust network of marine protected areas, in national and international waters." Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of the IUCN Global Marine Programme, United Nations General Assembly, World Conservation Union

"After climate change, commercial fishing represents the greatest threat to life in our oceans. As well as ruthlessly fishing out stock after stock, the way we fish has disastrous consequences for other species and entire ecosystems – but the damage being done is out at sea, out of sight, and out of mind for most people. We need to take drastic action to repair the damage we’ve done to our oceans before it’s too late." Willie Mackenzie, Oceans Campaign, Greenpeace United Kingdom

"Overfishing cannot continue." Nitin Desai, Secretary General of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development

''We've acted as if the supply of fish was limitless and it's not." Steve Trent, Executive Director, Environmental Justice Foundation

''As Europe has sought to manage its fisheries and to limit its fishing, what we've done is to export the overfishing problem elsewhere, particularly to Africa." Steve Trent, Executive Director, Evironmental Justice Foundation

''The sea is being emptied." Moctar Ba, Scientific Consultant, Mauritania and West Africa

"Can the sea really let us eat sushi in these numbers?" Caroline Bennett, Founder, Moshi Moshi sushi chain

"This project allows us to finally start to see the big picture of how humans are affecting the oceans. Our results show that when these and other individual impacts are summed up, the big picture looks much worse than I imagine most people expected. It was certainly a surprise to me." Ben Halpern, U.S. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS)

"It is true that fishermen feel an almost desperate need to catch as many fish as they can when they're allowed to. That sense of desperation ... can't be an excuse for the policymakers of the world and this country to allow that to cause the universal collapse of fisheries." James Greenwood, former U.S. Congressman

"Never before have Mediterranean countries had more reason or opportunity to safeguard the region's beleaguered sharks and rays. Officials should heed the dire warnings of this report and act to protect threatened sharks and rays through regional fisheries agreements, international wildlife conventions, and national legislation. Such action is necessary to change the current course toward extinction of these remarkable animals." Sonja Fordham, deputy chairman of the SSG and policy director for the Shark Alliance

"An estimated 40 percent of cod caught in the Baltic Sea are illegal." Mireille Thom, spokeswoman for Joe Borg, European Union Commissioner of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

Fish Facts

One billion people rely on fish as an important source of protein. - WWF

An international group of ecologists and economists warned that the world will run out of seafood by 2048 - Washington Post

The looming collapse of fisheries threatens the most important source of food for 250 million people. - The Earth's Carrying Capacity - Bruce Sundquist

According to the UNFAO, about 70 per cent of our global fisheries are now being fished close to, already at, or beyond their capacity. - The Earth's Carrying Capacity - Bruce Sundquist

As many as 90 per cent of all the ocean's large fish have been fished out. - WWF

one per cent of the world's Industrial fishing fleets account for 50 per cent of the world's catches. - CNN

Government subsidies of over $15 billion a year play a major role in creating the worlds fishing fleets.- WWF

The global fishing fleets are 250 per cent larger than the oceans can sustainably support.- WWF

Only 0.6 per cent of the world’s oceans are designated as protected.- WWF

A Greenpeace report states that 40 per cent of the world’s oceans should be placed in nature reserves. - MSNBC

In 2004, 13,000 new marine species were discovered, according to the Census of Marine Life. - Census of Marine Life

Japan has caught $6 billion worth of illegal Southern Bluefin tuna over the past 20 years. - Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Over the past 50 years World consumption of tuna has increased tenfold, from 0.4 million to over 4 million tonnes. - Environmental Justice Foundation

In 2000 tuna long liners set 1.2 billion hooks catching untold number of turtles, seabirds and sharks. - WWF

Fifteen species of sharks have seen their numbers drop by 50 per cent in the last 20 years. - National Geographic

Illegal fishing is worth up to $9 billion a year. - Illegal

Fifty two per cent of fish stocks are fully exploited. - Marine Stewardship Council

Friday, 1 May 2009

Jean Lambert Backs Refugee Green Project Scheme

Jean Lambert, Green Party MEP for London, gave her backing last night to a new scheme which will support refugee groups launch green projects.

The Evelyn Oldfield Unit, which supports community work by refugee organisations across London, will offer training courses to groups thinking of setting up environmental projects - from recycling to horticulture or neighbourhood renewal schemes.

Jean has worked extensively on asylum and migration issues in Europe, and has strong connections with refugee communities across London. She said: "I am very pleased to be supporting this important scheme which will boost the involvement and representation of refugee communities within the environmental sector. Encouraging people to take pride in the environments in which they live is an excellent way of developing a sense of belonging for those who have moved to London. I wish the Evelyn Oldfield Unit, and all the groups they support, every success with this."

The Evelyn Oldfield Unit's work with refugee and migrant community organisations has highlighted the under-representation of these groups in the environmental sector.

Tzeggai Yohannes Deres, CEO of the Evelyn Oldfield Unit, said:

"Refugees tend to come from countries with higher levels of rurality and therefore tend to be more mindful of local environmental concerns. The environment is also one of the major causes of refugees globally. For those now living in the UK, this is an opportunity to increase their connection with their locality, to be able to play a contributory role to the community and to improve the quality of their local area. There are also significant health benefits to be explored. For existing refugee and migrant community organisations, it is also the chance to diversify in to a new sector where there are many opportunities. The connections between local and global, migration and settlement and community-led solutions are core to this work."

The Evelyn Oldfield Unit, the leading organisation in this sector, is collaborating with the London Community Recycling Network to launch this event and to set up a support programme for interested groups, both those from refugee communities and those who wish to work with refugees more effectively.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


Caroline Lucas, Green MEP to co-host Parliament visit by Billy Bragg

Green Euro-MP Caroline Lucas will take to the platform alongside legendary musician and activist Billy Bragg at a press conference in the European Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday 22 April), to protest against proposals to extend copyright for artists and musicians which could see them lose considerable power to large corporate record labels.

The European Commission is proposing extend the term of protection of copyrights and related rights for performers and phonogram producers from 50 years to 95 years. Billy Bragg has voiced his support for a Green call to amend the controversial legislation and give the rights of ownership back to performers after 50 years.

South East Green Dr Lucas and other MEPs, together with Billy Bragg and a number of industry figures, will outline their opposition to the Copyright Term Extension Directive at the press conference in Strasbourg tomorrow between 3.30pm and 4pm.

Dr Lucas MEP said: “It is clear that action is needed to better reward performers for their work, but this legislation is absolutely not the solution. Copyright extension effectively allows the state to give powerful corporations a free rein to increase their profits – to the detriment of performer rights and artistic creativity.

“The Commission claims that the proposal would benefit both performers and record producers, but it is unlikely to do either. This legislation is framed to profit owners of the rights to music and not the performers. In fact it is estimated that under this law, 80% of profits from copyright deals would go to the media conglomerates and most of the remainder to the biggest recording artists.

“We’re talking about a gigantic windfall for a few multinational companies, taking millions of pounds from the pockets of consumers and giving it to the record labels. Also, the artistic cost of making songs from the last 50 years public property, thus allowing endless sampling by DJs and other artists, must be taken into consideration.

“The UK Greens are committed to a system known as Creative Commons, which offers a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors and artists. We want to encourage innovation and prevent large corporations from controlling and benefitting from our cultural legacy.”

Dr Lucas MEP concluded: “The European Commission is seeking to rush these proposals through Parliament without adequate scrutiny by MEPs, and the only people who look set to benefit are the corporate profiteers.

“At tomorrow’s press conference, I will call on my fellow MEPs to vote down these proposals and pave the way for fairer and more progressive legislation which will give greater power to the artists and performers themselves.”

Friday, 17 April 2009

MPA meeting on policing of G20 protests – open to public.

Date: Thursday 30th April 2009

Venue: City Hall, 2nd Floor Chamber

Time: 10.00am (advisable to arrive earlier due to large numbers expected)

This meeting will be attended by members of the Metropolitan Police Authority including Jenny Jones, Green Party Assembly Member, who has been leading calls for a review of ‘kettling’ and a thorough review of public order policing.

The meeting will aim to hold the Metropolitan Police to account for their behaviour and tactics deployed during the G20 Summit protests.

The public are invited to attend the meeting, and there is no need to book. This is a chance to ensure that our concerns are properly addressed and could help avoid a repetition of the dreadful circumstances that led to an innocent man’s death on April 1st.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

40% of marine catch called unintentional

About 40 percent of the global marine catch is caught unintentionally, a study group of the global conservation group WWF said Wednesday, estimating the amount is at least 38 million tons a year.

A paper issued by the group said unintentionally caught fish and other marine animals are "either unmanaged or unused" and should be considered bycatch, which occurs because most fishing gear is nonselective and fishing fleets can catch marine life other than the targeted species.

Collateral damage: A dead shark is entangled in a
fishing net off Tanzania in this undated file photo.

Bycatch is "an issue of critical ocean conservation and resource management concern," the paper said.

"The extent of bycatch . . . is revealed as potentially so serious that it must become a major political, management, sectoral and environmental focus, bringing its implications to the fore as a conservation/food security imperative," it said.

Robin Davies, a group member, called for the need to develop fishing equipment that curbs bycatch and urged Japanese to pay attention to how fish are caught.

The estimates in the paper were worked out by mainly using data available for 23 major fishing countries, including Japan, between 2000 and 2003. It also included data on global shark and tuna fishing.

The results identified 38.5 million tons of annual bycatch, which represents 40.4 percent of the estimated annual global catch of 95.2 million tons.

The paper also showed about 90 percent of marine life caught in shark fin fishing is bycatch.

Japan's bycatch rate is 13 percent, lower than the global average, it said.

The figures should be seen only as "indicative minimum bycatch estimates" because several sources of potentially large amounts of bycatch have not been estimated due to data deficiencies, the group said.

Large-scale bycatch of turtles, seabirds and other species is not usually quantified, the paper said.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

What the Tories don’t want you to know about hunting

From Chris Gale of the Stop Cameron Campaign:

The Stop Cameron Campaign is a UK wide network of animal welfare campaigners and other concerned members of the public who are determined to do everything to highlight Cameron's pledge to repeal the Hunting Act.

The press does not report the full extent of Cameron's agenda and his close links to the Hunting fraternity. As a result the public are to a large extent unaware of the Tory leadership's pro hunting agenda. Repeal of the Hunting Act would take place very quickly following a Tory win. It would be a simple Bill to annul it.

Some 50% of Lib Dem MPs are also pro hunting so would vote with the vast majority of Tories to fully re-legalise the barbarity fox, stag and deer hunting with dogs and hare coursing. The clear majority of the public are horrified when they find out the truth about Cameron and his pro hunt agenda. We have also linked scores of people, often who have never taken part in politics before, with anti hunt MPs to assist with leafleting etc in marginal seats.

The hunt fraternity (the Countryside Alliance and their front organisation called 'Vote Ok') has placed liaison officers within virtually every Tory constituency association in the country. Their job is to coordinate grassroots activity to ensure the removal of as many anti hunting MPs as possible. They do this in the background, never advertising their presence. At the last election, it was noticeable that in some constituencies the Tory election expenses returns were quite low, in at least one case this was where 'Vote OK' had been very active doing the work normally done by regular Tory campaigners. The Countryside Alliance has a Chief Executive, Simon Hart, who is a Tory Parliamentary candidate (and a key ally of Cameron) in a key marginal.

I am writing to ask for your help in altering me to Tory events within your areas. The more notice the better. Please also see 'How you can help' on our website.

Chris Gale National Organiser-Stop Cameron Campaign Tel 01249 529218443751

Comedian and campaigner Mark Thomas gives strong endorsement of Green Party

And a comment posted on You Tube:

Ask an artist what happens when you mix Liberal yellow with Green.. you get a PALE version of green.

When you mix Tory blue with Green you get Turquoise. ie Tories like Cameron.

And when you mix Labour 'red' with Green you just get a muddy sort of 'Brown'!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

La revolucion energetica: Cuba's energy revolution

By Laurie Guevara-Stone,

April 2, 2009 -- A new revolution is sweeping the island of Cuba, which is making massive progress on energy efficiency and renewable generation. Indeed, such is the success of the two-year old program on this small island of 11 million people, that many other countries could learn from its efforts to be energy independent and curb climate change.

Just a few years ago Cuba's energy situation was bleak. The country had 11 large, and quite inefficient, thermoelectric plants generating electricity for the entire island. Most of the plants were 25 years old and only functioning 60% of the time. There were frequent blackouts, especially during peak demand periods. There was also a high percentage of transmission losses along the electrical distribution grid. To add to the energy crisis, most Cuban households had inefficient appliances, 75% of the population was cooking with kerosene, and the residential electricity charges did not encourage conservation. In 2004 the eastern side of Cuba was hit by two hurricanes in a short period of time, affecting transmission lines and leaving 1 million people without electricity for 10 days. All of this in the face of the overarching drivers of peak oil and climate change, made Cubans realise they had to make energy more of a priority. Thus, in 2006, began what Cubans call la revolución energética -– the energy revolution .

Cuba’s recent energy revolution has helped it become a true model of sustainable development. The 2006 Living Planet report assesses sustainable development by using the United Nation’s Development Program’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) and the ecological footprint. The HDI is calculated from life expectancy, literacy and education, and per capita GDP. The UNDP considers an HDI value of more than 0.8 to be high human development. An ecological footprint, which is a measure of demand on the biosphere, lower than 1.8 global hectares per head denotes sustainability. The only country in the world that meets both of the above criteria is Cuba. ``Cuba has reached a good level of development according to United Nations’ criteria, thanks to its high literacy level and very high life expectancy'', explains Jonathan Loh, one of the authors of the report, adding: ``While the ecological footprint is not large since it is a country with low energy consumption.''

The statistics are impressive, the country is currently consuming 34% of the kerosene, 40% of the liquefied petroleum gas(LPG) and 80% of the petroluem (gasoline) it used to consume before the implementation of the energy revolution a mere two years earlier. Cuba's per capita energy consumption is now at a level one-eighth of that in the US, while access to health services, education levels, and life expectancy are still some of the top ranking in the world, as Table 1 below shows.

Small budget, big results

How does a country with a per capita GDP one-tenth that of the US, have the resources to carry out such a radical change in energy consumption, without sacrificing their high social indicators in health and education?

To understand Cuba's energy revolution one must understand some of the history of energy production and consumption in Cuba. Prior to the 1959 Cuban Revolution, 56% of the country was electrified. With the socialist revolution came a push to electrify even the remotest communities. By 1989, 95% of the country was electrified –- mostly with cheap oil traded for sugar with the Soviet Union. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 caused the bottom to fall out of the Cuban economy. Having to buy oil on the world market meant that cheap electricity was a thing of the past. Food, petrol and oil all became scarce as the US made matters worse by tightening its economic blockade. Both the 1992 Cuba Democracy Act and Helms-Burton law passed in 1996, target foreign investment in Cuba, seeking to undermine Cuba's international access to capital, and making much needed resources hard to come by.

The years following the Soviet collapse and the intensifying of the blockade were known as the ``Special Period'' because Cubans had to tighten their belts and learn how to produce basic requirements such as food, medicines and energy, both locally and sustainably.

In 1993, a National Energy Sources Development Program (Programa de desarrollo de las Fuentes Nacionales de Energia) was implemented to reduce Cuba's energy imports and obtain maximum benefits from domestic energy sources. The document proposed that the first national source of energy should be efficiency.

After the National Energy Sources Development Program was adopted, Cuba embarked on a drive to save energy and use more renewable sources of energy. All rural schools, health clinics and social centres in the country, not previously connected to the grid, were electrified with solar energy, and today 2364 of the solar electric systems on the island are on rural schools. Making lights, computers and educational television programs accessible to every schoolchild in the country; this program won Cuba the Global 500 award from the United Nations in 2001.

However, despite all their efforts, 10 years after the program was implemented, Cuba still had an energy crisis on its hands. So in 2006 the energy revolution took some of the most drastic steps any country has taken to date.

A five-point plan

Cuba's energy revolution has five main aspects: energy efficiency and conservation; increasing the availability and reliability of the national electric grid; incorporating more renewable energy technologies into their energy portfolio; increasing the exploration and production of local oil and gas; and international co-operation.

Understanding that the first step in an energy revolution is not to look for more ways of generating energy, but to decrease energy demand, Cuba began a program to change over to energy efficient appliances. As then-President Fidel Castro explained in a May 2006 address to the Cuban Electric Utility company (UNE): ``We are not waiting for fuel to fall from the sky, because we have discovered, fortunately, something much more important –- energy conservation, which is like finding a great oil deposit.''

The program to allow people to switch their incandescent bulbs to more efficient compact fluorescents, free of charge, was met with complete success. In six months over 9 million incandescent light bulbs, close to 100% of the bulbs used in the whole country, were changed to compact fluorescents –- making Cuba the first country in the world to completely eliminate inefficient tungsten filament lighting. Furthermore, millions of energy efficient appliances were sold to Cuban consumers, including almost 2 million refrigerators, over 1 million fans, 182,000 air conditioners and 260,000 water pumps.

At the same time, efficient electrical cooking appliances were introduced. Almost 3.5 million rice cookers and more than 3 million pressure cookers were sold to families in the push to have people switch from kerosene to cooking with electricity.

And one of the best ways Cuba managed to encourage conservation was its new residential electrical tariff structure. Prior to 2006, Cuba's highly subsidised electricity was sold very cheaply, which did not encourage conservation. The new tariff structure allows people consuming less than 100 kWh per month to stay at the current extremely low rate of only 0.09 pesos/kWh (0.38 US cents/kWh). But for every increase of 50 kWh per month the rate skyrockets. And consumers using over 300 kWh per month must pay 1.30 pesos/kWh (5.4 US cents/kWh). In terms of US dollars, this is still significantly less than consumers pay in the United States, but it is over four times what large energy users were paying previously.

Cuba also embarked on energy savings measures in the state sector. All water pumps in tall buildings and aqueducts were changed to efficient pumps. The 40 W fluorescent tubes used in many government offices will be changed to 32 W bulbs with electronic ballasts, and inefficient refrigerators and air conditioners have been replaced with more efficient models.

Power to the people

A revolution cannot truly be called revolutionary without the support of the masses. Cuba's energy revolution is no exception. In order to involve the general populace in the effort to save energy, an ambitious energy education initiative was put into place. The Programa de Ahorro de Energia por la Ministro de Educacion (PAEME) is a national energy program implemented by the ministry of education in 1997. Its objective is to teach students, workers, families and communities about energy-saving measures and renewable sources of energy.

In schools, the energy theme is present in many different disciplines. Students learn about energy issues not just in physics but in economic classes, environmental courses and health curricula as well. (See also

PAEME has also held energy festivals for the past three years, educating thousands of Cubans about efficiency and conservation. The festivals are targeted towards students and are filled with young children expressing their thoughts on energy savings through songs, poetry and theatre. It starts in each Cuban school where the children with the best energy efficiency projects go on to the festival at the municipality level. Then the best move on to the provincial level, and from there on to the national level. ``UNE decided that the festival is not a typical competition, but something like an energy efficiency carnival, with the most outstanding students of the country'', explains Teresa Palenzuela, a specialist with UNE. In the national festival, where the public lines up for blocks to enter, the students exchange experiences and share knowledge without declaring any winners.

In order to get the word out to even more of the population, the mass media was employed. For instance, you never see advertising for commercial products on Cuban highways, instead scattered across the country are dozens of billboards promoting energy conservation. There is also a weekly television show dedicated to energy issues, and articles appear weekly in national newspapers espousing renewable energy, efficiency and conservation. In 2007 alone there were more than 8000 articles and TV spots dedicated to energy efficiency issues.

Fair distribution

Despite these efforts, saving energy was not enough, and in 2005 blackouts were still common. Furthermore, Cuba had a very old and inefficient electrical distribution grid to deal with. The Cuban government realised that one of the best ways to provide for energy security was to move towards decentralised energy, and thus it began the move towards distributed generation. Employing this concept means less vulnerability to natural disasters or foreign invasions which might affect electricity to a whole section of the country. The strategy also diversifies energy sources, while making it easier to ultimately change to alternative sources of energy in the future, such as those produced more locally and sustainably.

In 2006, Cuba installed 1854 diesel and fuel oil micro-electrical plants across the country, representing more than 3000 MW of decentralised power in 110 municipalities. This virtually eliminated the blackouts that plagued Cuba in 2004. In fact, in the years 2004 and 2005 there were more than 400 days of blackouts greater than 100 MW that lasted at least an hour. In 2006 and 2007, there were three, all of which were in 2006. This is a better rate than in most industrialised countries.

In addition to the new plants, they also installed more than 4000 emergency back-up systems in critical areas like hospitals, food production centres, schools and other sites key to Cuba's economy. This represents 500 MW of emergency back-up power.

Furthermore, Cuba embarked on an impressive plan to fix its existing electrical transmission network. It upgraded more than 120,000 electrical posts, over 1 million utility service entrances, almost 3000 kilometres of cable and half a million electrical meters. The overall effect of this program meant that in 2005, while the country needed an average of 280 grams of oil to generate one kWh of electricity, in 2007 this figure had fallen to 271 grams of oil per kWh. While this might seem like a small saving, it translates to thousands of tonnes of imported oil annually. In 2006–2007 Cuba saved over 961,000 tonnes of imported oil through its energy saving measures.

Incorporating more renewables

Although incorporating renewable sources of energy into the energy mix has been a priority since the early 1990s, the past two years have seen even more growth. Currently 100 wind measuring stations are being installed in 11 different provinces of the country and two new wind farms have been built, bringing the total wind energy installed in the country to 7.23 MW. Also in development is the country’s first grid-connected 100 kW solar electric plant.

Furthermore, 180 micro-hydro systems, harnessing energy from water in streams and rivers, are installed around Cuba, 31 of which are grid connected. And the number of independent solar electric systems in rural areas of the country has risen to more than 8000, with a plan in place to use solar panels and other renewable technologies to electrify the remaining 100,000 houses that don't yet have access to electricity. This year will also see the addition of 300 biogas plants, which are using animal waste to create cooking fuel.

Sugar, Cuba's main export crop, also produces electricity. In sugarcane factories around the country the bagasse, which is the residue left over after the cane is processed, is burned and turned into useable energy to power the plant and to feed the electrical grid. Sugarcane biomass facilities currently have an installed capacity of 478.5 MW.

Cuba is also making progress on liquid biofuels such as ethanol. Usually involving the use of food crops like corn, the official stance on biofuels is that ``Cuba does not support the idea of converting food into fuels, while more than 800 million people suffer hunger''. Nevertheless, there are some liquid biofuel pilot projects. The best example is the cultivation of Jatropha Carcus, which produces a non-edible oil, and which thus does not compete with human food production.

In 2007 a national group aimed at supporting and promoting the accelerated development and penetration of renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency was created. The 14 commissions of this group, covering all types of renewable sources of energy and efficiency, have a government mandate to study better ways to introduce renewable energies into the country.

`Doctors of the Soul' help the energy revolution

The island has exported its energy revolution to other countries as well, in the framework of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). ALBA emphasises the fight against poverty and social exclusion. For instance, after Cuba worked with Venezuela on an energy-conservation campaign, Venezuela reported savings of 2000 MW of power. Cuban scientists and technicians have also provided and installed over 1 MW of solar electric panels in Venezuela, Bolivia, Honduras, South Africa, Mali and Lesotho.

To carry out their ambitious energy conservation plan, Cuba relied on its small army of trabajadores sociales or social workers. Formed in 2000, Cuba's social workers are made up of youths who have the task of bringing social justice to the island in many different spheres, including labour, education, culture, sports and the environment. Along with working with people with disabilities, the elderly and people convicted of crimes, the latest job of the social workers is to help carry out the energy revolution. Since 2006, 13,000 social workers have visited homes, businesses and factories around the island replacing light bulbs, teaching people how to use their new electric cooking appliances and spreading information on saving energy. The social workers also worked with the ministry of agriculture to help save energy in the sugarcane harvest, and work in the transportation sector to achieve more efficiency in the national bus system.

The social workers attend a school where they receive classes in politics, social communication, energy and sustainable development, with the objective of creating values and convictions which should characterise a social worker. They are also taught to replace light bulbs and to explain the need for saving energy.

Furthermore, under ALBA, the social workers also travel to other countries to help implement energy saving programs –- such as in Haiti where they visited over 93,000 houses and installed more than 2 million energy efficient light bulbs. Similar to Cuba’s medical program, which has more than 20,000 doctors working abroad to help with health crises, the social workers are travelling around the world to help in the energy crisis. Fidel Castro, who founded the program, refers to the social workers as ``Doctors of the Soul''.

``We need a global energy revolution '', says Mario Alberto Arrastia Avila, an energy expert with Cubaenergia, an energy information centre in Cuba. ``But in order for this to happen we also need a revolution in consciousness. Cuba has undertaken its own path towards a new energy paradigm, applying concepts like distributed generation, efficiency, education, energy solidarity and the gradual solarisation of the country.’

The rest of the world should follow Cuba's lead, for only a true global energy revolution will allow us to seriously confront the dire environmental problems that the world now faces.