Home' Ausmarine : November 2010 Contents "He that commands the sea
is at great liberty, and may take as
much and as little of the war as he
will." -- Francis Bacon
Oh dear! My previous column contained what I must confess
was a predictive fluke, rather than prescience.
Not long after I emailed my column to the magazine came
mention of the arrest, by a Japanese patrol vessel, of a Chinese
fishing boat. This took place in the East Sea, where boundary
claims and disputes have simmered between the regional powers
since they started building boats. If you don't believe me, have a
look at the ornaments and carvings decorating the family room
of the average Korean migrant's home. I bet somewhere there will
be a model, or depiction of the iron clad turtle ship, revered in
Korea for its part in the territorial battle with Japan in the
The column made mention of the historic conflicts resulting
from fishing rights and access, and the dangers associated with
hubristic declarations of marine parks and no-take zones. Just
about every seafaring nation has, at one time or another, been
drawn into conflict over who owns what. Whether it was
herring or halibut, seals or whales, the Danish or Dutch, you
name it, fishing has caused conflicts. Sadly, not all of them
have been as gentlemanly as the Cod War between Britain and
Iceland in the '70s.
Fishing nations to our north cannot even agree as to the name
of some seas. A mistaken reference to an area by the wrong
nationally recognised name will be met with a frown and polite
correction. A deliberate misnomer is considered a challenge, or at
worst, an insult. In environments such as these, there is no place
for self-important ultra activists. Foolish, culturally insensitive
blunders, by unilateral declaration of zones, species, or parks, can
have horrible consequences for everyone, not just the offending
party or organisation.
Long national memory turbo-charges any loss of face up north.
For those who think the arrest of a Chinese skipper in a disputed
area is small beer, I suggest you look at what sort of neighbourly
payback was meted out to a South Korean naval vessel a few
months back. Forty-nine sailors were killed and regional military
activity was ramped up. The ramping up of military activity by
nuclear-armed rogue states is a sharp reminder of the national
regard for loss of face.
Since most of our protein needs are met from agriculture, we
tend to dismiss northern clashes over sea boundaries as minor
events. Perhaps we would be a little less complacent if one of our
state governments decided to move a border to accommodate its
grazing and mining interests. For nations that rely on the sea as
their major source of protein and mining rights, sea territory is just
as important as land borders.
Australia lays claim to the world's third largest economic zone.
That's an awful lot of food producing area. Is has not escaped the
notice of certain fishing nations that it is grossly under-utilised,
and some of our claimed areas are subject to challenge.
We are vulnerable to the charge of maintaining a "dog in the
manger" management strategy, allowing politically correct
vociferous lobby groups to determine policy, rather than the need
to sustainably harvest. "Use it or lose it" is a pretty sound maxim
when it comes to territory. Let's hope we never have to defend it. A
couple of occasionally operational Collins-class subs compared to
China's 75, for instance, might leave us a tad overstretched.
Maybe we should leave the defence of marine parks in our
distant waters to the likes of Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace, et al. It
would be interesting to see how they negotiate with nations like
"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet
been discovered." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
In times past Australians ranked rather well up among
innovators of the world. It probably had something to do with
being relatively isolated. Self-reliance was a feature of the national
character. Need bred invention and prompted innovation.
Of late, rural development, with a few notable exceptions,
leans pretty heavily on grant-funded and institutional
projects. CSIRO, FRDC, New Rural Industries Australia, and the
Australian Institute for Commercialisation are just a few of the
academically blessed organisations with a charter to encourage
enterprise and development. What disappoints me, and I suspect
quite a few struggling producers, is the tendency for the research
effort to be inclined toward prevention rather than increased
efficiency and productivity. Funding probably has a bit to
do with it. Grants come a bit easier for tales of woe, not
The use of seaweed, as a stock feed supplement, came up in a
recent conversation. I asked why, with the huge resource at our
disposal, the only thing we could come up with was a stock feed
supplement. Yes, it was agreed, there is an abundance of uses,
ranging from medical to nutritional, manufacturing and even
carbon capture. The trouble is, no one wants to spend the time and
money dealing with the morass of red tape, green negativity or
creative land claims. It's much easier to do it where it has always
I have never understood why Australia, a nation plagued by
drought, neglects to develop its drought-proof harvest
opportunities. Maybe it's because all our innovators nowadays
are on committees, creating new regulations and developing
grant applications. When someone finally does take up the
challenge of harvesting or growing seaweed in Australia you can
bet someone, somewhere, will set about preventing, restricting,
or regulating it. There will be a grant of course. It will be to the
regulator, not the producer.
Muddying the water
There is a danger for those of us trying to promote our
local product and reduce reliance on imports. It is the tendency
to denigrate our competitor's product while singing the praises
or our own clean, green image. Smart marketers know that
tactics like that can come back to bite. The market as a whole
takes a hit, not just imports. Muddy water does not necessarily
mean pollution, any more than growing vegetables in soil does.
We can promote what we have to offer without resorting to
A personal comment from Ulladulla's very own
Barry McRoberts on Management Matters.
November 2010 AUSMARINE
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