Morally Bankrupt & No Longer Even Trying: Canada Opposes Ban On Endangered Bluefin Tuna

Remember when Canada used to take morally courageous stands on issues and was well-respected for it? Remember when it was America on the wrong side of so many issues, rather than Canada? And remember when the lust for profits didn't necessarily trump all else in every decision this country made?

Well, I've got something new for you to all remember and it's something, when the time comes, I sure hope no one forgets: When you read about the complete collapse of the Atlantic bluefin tuna population and its eventual extinction in a few short years from now, remember that it was Canada, as much as any other nation (aside from Japan), that was responsible.

Who gives a *$%# about bluefin tuna, you ask?

Well, short answer, certainly not Canada. And if you did ask such a question then you're most likely a strong supporter of this country's current Conservative government and you probably should just stop reading here.

However, for those of you who do care but don't necessarily follow all the goings on at meetings of groups like the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), let me fill you in.

CITES is currently in the middle of an important meeting and just today (March 18th, 2010) voted on a proposal to ban the export of bluefin tuna. The proposal failed.

Some would argue that in order to let the stock replenish itself what is actually needed is a complete ban on catching these huge fish, but, sadly, even with both the European Union and America backing it, not even today's proposed limited ban was able to pass.

And what about Canada? Well, the Canadian government's position is quite clear and can be summed up rather succinctly (and I paraphrase): "Screw the tuna, let's make some more money while we still can!"

Bluefin stocks may be down 85% from their peak and on an unbridled path to almost-certain extinction, but why let that spoil a few more good years of fishing, right?

Seriously, it was really terrific to see the world once again step up to the plate and forcefully say "Let's do nothing". Just like at the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen a few months back.

Consistent To A Fault

The one thing you can say about this Stephen Harper-led government is that it is quite consistent. That is, when it comes to the environment our government is consistently opposed to doing anything concrete to make things better. Not if it'll cost us a thing economically.

Four years ago it was a ban on bottom trawling that our country took a bold, strong stand against. And it was an especially brave stand when you consider that the world's fish stocks are forecast to disappear by the year 2050 and that bottom trawling is considered one of the main contributing causes.

Why would Canada not care about such a thing, you ask? Well, simply put, because Canada's fishing fleet still makes big profits off of bottom trawling, of course.

Even George W. Bush, of all people, supported that ban. And it really takes a lot to have George W. Bush make you look like a heartless environmental degrader. But that's exactly what happened.

In fact, in recent years many things about Canada's environmental record have been making America's record look quite good in comparison.

For instance, at this very same CITES conference this week Canada voted against a U.S. proposal to ban the international sale of polar bears skins, another animal on the decline that it seems Canada cares little about.

Then there's the collapsing Fraser River sockeye salmon population, a collapse linked by many scientists to the fish farms dotting the B.C. coast. Fish farms, it should be noted, that the government seems to consider untouchable.

I'm starting to wonder whether there's any ban this country would support, at least if there was a buck to be made in opposing it.

Of course, the most glaring of all this country's environmental crimes is the lack of government control, or even concern, when it comes to that infamous, globally-despised wasteland known as the oil sands (the single largest contributor to our title as "The World's Worst Per Capita Climate Change Polluters" - and what a magnificent title that is!).

Canada's overall environmental record may rank as the worst among the G-8 nations, and the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) may have recently ranked Canada as the "worst climate performer amongst [the] top 10 greenhouse gas emitters" and "56th out of 57 countries evaluated, ahead of only Saudi Arabia", but who really cares since, as Dave Chappelle playing Rick James on Chappelle's Show would say, "We're rich, bitch!"

Jaded Japan

Sure, you can say Japan, which imports 80 per cent of the Atlantic bluefin catch and has led the opposition to the ban, is the main villain in this whole tuna story, but, let's face it, Japan has long been a joke when it comes to anything involving conservation and the sea.

After all, Japan's government is, at this very minute, allowing its school kids to be fed toxic mercury-laced dolphin meat labeled as "whale" (as was discussed in last year's great documentary The Cove).

We're also talking about the same government that is ferocious in its commitment to slaughtering a thousand or more whales every year in the name of "research". Research that has absolutely no scientific value.

I mean, really, what do you expect from such a country?

At least they're opposing the ban on the grounds that they can't do without their beloved "hon-maguro" sushi and sashimi (that is, at least until it becomes extinct in a few years), while countries like Canada are simply opposed to the ban due to nothing more than good ol' fashioned notions of greed and lust for profit.

Morally Bankrupt

You can scoff at me all you like, but some of us can actually still remember a time when Canada wasn't completely morally bankrupt. A time, say, in the 1990s, when we weren't on the wrong side of history on just about every single environmental issue.

At this point it almost wouldn't surprise me if our government came out in support of tiger hunting. Or lead-based paint. Or the export of asbestos (oh, I forgot, as I reported in my Top Ten Things To Love and Hate About Canada piece, we already do that).

Certainly, Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are chiefly to blame for many of these reprehensible stands, but some of this predates their rise to power. The fact is Canada has been on a slow road to environmental pariah status for years now.

The State Religion

Think back to the complete inaction on the Atlantic cod fishery 20 years ago that led to the catastrophic collapse of that once-thriving fish population.

In fact, it feels like we're experiencing an almost identical case of negligent inaction with the bluefin. It really feels like deja vu.

Clearly there's really only one state religion in Canada and it's called Greed. The planet be damned. Future generations be damned. And the bluefin tuna? Well, once again, it can go %&$* itself for all the Canadian government cares.

Just like the Atlantic cod.

And we all know how well that case of short-term thinking worked out.

What's that saying again, the one about not learning from history?

Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Thursday, March 18th, 2010

And now check out this other recent piece on the environment: We're #1: A More Positive Take On Canada's Dismal Environmental Record


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For more on the environment visit the The Environment homepage


MikesAndDislikes Home

Hey Mike, Great stuff.

Hey Mike, Great stuff.

On many occasions, you've demonstrated how easy it is for Canadians to remain sheltered from the realities of our underperforming government policies/positions. It's easy to see how this can happen. Regardless of whether or not we support the ban on Bluefin Tuna, halt our export of asbestos, revisit the tar sands, etc, the fact will remain that every single Canadian won the lottery when we were lucky enough to be born here. Whether or not we adopt a right moral stance today will not change the fact that tomorrow we will wake up in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. However, the truth of the matter is that we could be better, much better, and tomorrow our country will be a little less beautiful because of our failure to do the right thing today.

Thanks for bringing this and everything else to our attention.


Looking backwards

Canada, where the Bush era never dies.


Don't forget the upcoming transformation of our justice system from rehab to American-style mandatory sentences. They're already writing up contracts for construction for all the extra jails they're gonna need.


What's wrong?

The same thing is wrong with Canada and Japan as is so spectacularly wrong with the USA - profit over what is morally correct... Croft


Capitalism baby!


Idiot child

The moments when we act like the idiot child in the US's attic have really multiplied with the current crop of Reform Par... uh Conservative people in power. They are neo-cons on the american line and their self-righteousness causes them to have contempt for anything they don't actively support. Elmelo

Well deserved

Canada deserves to be made fun of. Its not like Harper was voted in once and then people realized he was an idiot. Like Bush he keeps getting elected again and again. ClassicalFizz

Canada's undeserved reputation

Canada has an undeserved reputation of rationalism on the international stage and, I would say, on internal matters as well.


We used to do some pretty cool stuff, like punk America on the landmine ban treaty for example, but those days are gone.


We support unfettered free trade for developing nations. We were quite integral in sabotaging Copenhagen. We have been whoring for Israel's illegal activities since that country's inception. This list could go on for a lot longer, but you get the idea.



Oh Canada!

If we could do it to cod, we can do it to bluefin tuna! Go Canada! Helm

The tipping point

Honestly, this is like children fighting over a toy that is already broken. Oceanic resources have been depleted to a tipping point for many species and beyond the tipping point for many others. Witness the gigantic garbage patches. Have we at any time in our history been good stewards of our natural environment?



Shame on our government!

Many more comments posted on

You can read many more comments - over 40 in total - posted in response to this piece on the Georgia Straight's site here.