Chaos, Fishing, Arms Shipments and Pollution on the High Seas
by Brian Risman, Publisher www thelawjournal co uk -- 15 December 2002

Are we as doomed as the dinosaurs?

Yesterday a cargo collision in the English Channel tied up one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Environmental and salvage crews rushed to the scene to try to minimise the damage.

A couple of weeks ago, the oil tanker Prestige broke apart off the coast of Spain, after a botched and reckless -- and indeed, negligent -- attempt by the Spanish authorities to move the crippled tanker into offshore waters. The Spanish Prime Minister has just apologised for the environmental carnage created. Not to mention the political chaos -- relations with Portugal have soured because of the Spanish attempt to move the ship into their waters -- and the French threaten to sue the Spanish if the oil slick reaches their shores. So much for European Unity in Copenhagen this week!

Why, after all the numerous disasters -- for example, the Exxon Valdez many years ago off the coast of Alaska -- do we still have politicians wringing their hands about solutions?

We hear that ships bearing 'flags of convenience' -- that is, ships that fly the flag of countries more interested in shipping revenue than enforcing safety and environmental standards -- should be banned.

We hear that oil tankers with single hulls will be banned by 2015 -- and I suspect that even when that date arrives, we will still have single hull tankers polluting the seas with their oil.

Not to mention the fishing industries being devastated all over the world -- due to over-fishing, climate change and pollution, the European Union is now facing fishing restrictions. This sad scenario was played out in Canada a decade ago. Now the collapse of commercial fishing is growing.

So why does nothing occur?

Part of the problem is international law regarding treaties. Unless a country becomes a signatory to a treaty, they are not bound by their provisions. This is why the United States had to let a North Korean munitions ship continue on its journey to Yemen -- if the countries involved were signatories of international treaties, action could be taken. But since they are not signatories, nothing happens.

That is the problem with international law -- fishing, the environment, and indeed the threat of war -- all  these problems result from a chaotic international legal environment.

What is the solution? Even when international courts are created, they tend to be political tools rather than constructive organisations. This is why the United States is opting out of the War Crimes Tribunal (though they have recently made some concessions). It is inevitable that political agendas will be played out, rather than justice being served.

An obvious example of the misuse of international legal entities is the political hijacking of these organisations by the Arab states in their war against Israel. Witness the UN Earthquake Research Summit several years ago, whose useful work collapsed over Arab resolutions condemning the "Zionist earthquake" that devastated the Palestinians. What does the Mideast conflict have to do with Richter scale measurements? Nothing. So a valuable summit was disrupted.

I have no doubt the same will occur with any international actions taken to resolve problems on the high seas. Why should the result be any different than the Durban Conference on Human Rights, in which vicious dictatorships condemned democracies in the West (and of course, the hated Israel and any other Jewish delegations) for human rights violations? A disgusting example.

Plus, the Environmental lobby groups such as Greenpeace insist on sitting on the political crazy left-wing extreme, gaining nothing in the process. Why don't these groups help draft treaties with countries? Not a chance -- that would defeat their true political agenda which has nothing to do with the environment.

An interesting report this week from an environmental scientist stated that global warming and decay will not be gradual, but instead will be sudden and violent in its impact. Something along the lines of the climate change that killed the dinosaurs suddenly...

I wonder if the dinosaurs had these political agendas that proved suicidal?

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Brian Risman

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