Home' Ausmarine : March 2011 Contents Hi-tech
As I said, once upon a time I lived and worked in Malaya
courtesy of His Majesty's Forces. Of course, the Malayan
Communist Party the cause of our troubles finally packed
it in and not much later, after the Brits left, it got clever
enough to declare Singapore Island an independent state.
Mind you, there has been some improvement: it's a place where
crims think twice about violence since it may mean being caned
with a well seasoned and springy length of rattan, well laid on.
Anyway, when things quietened down, my demob group of
66C, about a dozen squaddies of the West Yorks all told, were sent
down from Penang Island to Singapore to work at the British
Military Hospital in Alexander Road whilst awaiting our troopship,
rumoured to be the 'Georgic' which had once been burned and
sunk at Alexandria. Later, when about to cast-off, I gloomily
viewed the heat-buckled plates along the waterline and reckoned
the rumour was probably quite true after all. We knew the Yanks
had refitted her 'cos she was far too luxurious by British standards.
But, anyway, going back to Blighty would be quite different from
the voyage out, where some of us had washed dishes clear across
the Indian Ocean.
Yes, but what's this all got to do with...? Hold on and I'll tell
you. Whilst in Singapore three of us used to hire a mixed-race
Chinese-Malay beach boatman to take us for short trips along the
coast. One day a big shoal of fish appeared, whereupon our
boatman produced a round, 50-cigarette tin of black powder, lit
the fuse, and tossed it overboard: you could feel the boat lift.
Some nice fish came up whilst hundreds of littlies pattered the sea
surface like rain drops.
'Smattrafact, our boatie seemed to hold us in contempt,
addressing us with names like Swee Kow and Low Kow. When we
learned that "kow" meant dog we threw him overboard, but he
came up grinning. It turned out later that he had been a hit man
for the MPLA, the misnamed Malay People's Liberation Army, of
which the Malays wanted little part!
Setting the Seal
The IWMC World Conservation Trust, whose aim is to promote
sustainable use of natural resources, reports on Arctic Harp seals in
their Sustainable eNews for Jan/Feb 2011, try www.iwmc.org.
These animals migrate south along eastern Canada in winter where
sealer-fishermen have traditionally harvested them in a humane
manner under limits set by government. From this the people, the
fish, and the seals themselves benefited.
Then the enviro-capitalists stepped in to make big money by
selling guilt to psyche-starved city folk who wouldn't know a harp
seal if they fell over one but would happily kill the last one if they
became really hungry.
The self-righteous European Union, for one, banned such seal
products. One consequence of this was that the seals, having
increased from two to ten million in a few years, were busy eating
themselves out of business as fish stocks declined drastically. How
stupid can the self-righteous me-too'ers get?
But "Heigh-ho Silver-r-r-r!" (yeah, I'm that old!), Beijing has
galloped to the rescue. What? That's right, Canada and China have
signed an export-import trade agreement for harp seal products.
So, with a bit of luck the fishos, the seals, and the fish will return
to a better balanced lifestyle, although it may take some time to
catch and process the four or five million seals required.
As has been pointed out by better writers than myself, in the
last half million years only five to ten percent of the time has been
as benign as at present, and anyway modern industrial man could
have had nothing to do with it since he wasn't here. And, yes, the
world's volcanoes have always emitted far more pollution than we
ever could, and still do. So? Well, I came across an opinion
recently that without some sort of smog in the sky we would be
enjoying temperatures such as minus 18oC. Happy thought. The
tabloids haven't got to that yet.
In rural Victoria down-under we have monthly open-air events
known as farmers' markets whereby hobby farmers and others can
sell a wide variety of quality home-made stuff in some local
recreation area. Since many folk are fed-up with, and maybe bored
stiff by supermarkets, these events are well patronised.
But what's a fisheries inspector doing here this Saturday
morning? He must have been tipped-off for he makes straight to
a table heaped with 45 litres of blue mussels and sternly addresses
the vendor. Since the permissible catch for an amateur is seven
litres of shell or one litre of meat, and our officer knows very well
that this bloke has none of the 101 licenses and permits required
to take and sell seafood, it's off to court we go. Oh, and when the
man's house was raided an "illegal" net was found. Illegal in
At Sale, in East Gippsland, court was convened and our mussel
poacher fined $1,000 plus $90 costs. I don't know whether there
were any domestic violence cases that day but you can be sure that
they would have been treated more lightly. But it's nice to know
that our precious heritage is being guarded and that we and our
children, and our children's children, and our children's children's
children... oh do shut up you GOB!
OK, but it is ironic that such mussels, being filter feeders, if
scraped off piles at Paynesville as alleged, might well make you
quite sick. Health? Not a word!
Talking about mussels
Parts of Port Phillip, on which lies Melbourne, are carpeted with
blue mussels, so much so that two or three dredgers once made
good catches fishing out of Mornington on the east side. At that
time Neil Baird asked me to go out for a trip on one such boat
where I would meet a local MP who was investigating complaints
by anglers that the bay was being ruined. We sallied forth, took
photos, chatted with the crew, and the MP said there was no cause
for alarm. Yet Parliament promptly closed the fishery. Ain't
democracy a fine thing? The same thing happened to the Port
Phillip scallop fishery, once worth $100,000,000 a year. Despite
evidence from government marine biologists that no harm was
being done, the fishery was closed. That's politics for you.
There is no older trick in the scientific repertory than to
present exact statistical deductions to divert our attention from
an untenable premise -- Robert Ardrey in his 1978 book, The
Grumpy Old Bastard
March 2011 AUSMARINE
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