Responsibility is not just a word »« Dr Willie Parker, the only abortion doctor in Mississippi

We can always find a reason to kill something

I have never seen a paddlefish in the wild, although I’ve seen young adults and embryos in the lab — they are quiet, secretive beasts, cruising gape-jawed through our regional rivers to dine on plankton, and growing to immense size without ever troubling anyone. They are gloriously weird animals. But they are in danger of extinction because they also produce voluminous quantities of eggs, also known as caviar. A large female can carry $40,000 worth of eggs, so they are fished up, ignominiously slit open and disemboweled, and left to rot on the river bank.

It’s a real shame. Once again, we hunt a spectacular North American native species to extinction, all because of greed.

paddlefish

Comments

  1. methuseus says

    I enjoy fish and steak on different occasions, but I avoid veal and other products I don’t agree with. The only roe I eat is that which is included when I eat sushi, which is rarely. I have never tried caviar and probably never will, partially because I don’t think I’d like it and partially because, even as a child, the fisheries worldwide were already in decline and caviar has always been strange to me. I never understood why someone would take the eggs and throw away the fish. I figured at least someone would have eaten the fish itself.

  2. Crimson Clupeidae says

    And really stupid greed too, even from a purely business point of view (which is a really dumb way of looking at things anyway, but hey, Murrika!), since when these beautifully weird critters are gone, those businesses will be too.

    They’ll just move on to the next near extinct animal…. :(

  3. methuseus says

    And really stupid greed too, even from a purely business point of view (which is a really dumb way of looking at things anyway, but hey, Murrika!), since when these beautifully weird critters are gone, those businesses will be too.

    I’ve never understood this. You’re making money at this. You could make a little less money each month, but over a much longer period of time if you do it responsibly. But no, these people would rather make as much money as possibly, quickly (less overall) at this and then have to learn a new trade, or at least modify their trade to work in some other environment. I’d rather have a guaranteed amount of money over a long period than a larger amount of money over a short period with no guarantee of any more.

  4. anteprepro says

    Troo Capitalism in Two:
    Short term profits trump long term profits.
    Profits trump everything else about your life and everyone else’s.

  5. Nick Gotts says

    I’ve never understood this. You’re making money at this. You could make a little less money each month, but over a much longer period of time if you do it responsibly. – methuseus@3

    It’s quite simple. A key feature of capitalism is the mobility of capital. For those who possess large amounts of it, it is rather easy to take it out of one enterprise and put it into another. The article makes clear (although not explicit) that the people making a lot out of this are not those actually catching and gutting the fish, but those they sell to. In this particular case, the business is illegal, but plenty of legal fisheries, logging operations, etc., are just as short-termist. This doesn’t matter to the capitalist: by the time the natural resource is exhausted, the money will have been reinvested. As for the actual fish-gutters, they are in a classic social dilemma: for any one of them, catching fewer fish means less money, and the fish they don’t catch will be taken by someone else.

  6. addicted44 says

    Simple tragedy of the commons. If a fisherman doesn’t extract money out of this fish to extinction, ANOTHER fisherman will. And fisherman #1 will have nothing to show for it, though the species is still extinct.

    But of course, Capitalism can never be wrong, so this must just be accepted, because any attempts to charge for the externalities, or use market mechanisms to include the costs of fishing a species to extinction, or to prevent a species from being fished to extinction by enforcing sustainable fishing (which would lead to far greater long term benefits), is just SOCIALISM and Naziism.

  7. dogfightwithdogma says

    I agree that greed is responsible for this and capitalism shares a considerable portion of the guilt. But I don’t think greed alone is to blame. I don’t think we should be blind to the role the consumer plays in this process. Some of our moral indignation should be directed at the consumers of this product.

  8. methuseus says

    @robertbaden #8

    Did the sturgeons do well under the Soviets?

    According to the linked article, yes. The fishery was collapsing, the Soviets took over, fixed it, and almost immediately after the Soviet Union fell, the fishery started to collapse again.

  9. wpjoe says

    You can watch them jumping in the Wisconsin River. They are beautiful and protected there.

  10. shelldigger says

    I was a commercial diver in Tn. for over 30 years. Harvesting freshwater mussels for the cultured pearl industry. There is little danger of the shell going extinct, they are managed well and propagate well. There are as many out there now as there was 30 years ago, maybe more. Anyway…

    Years ago it was not uncommon to see paddlefish floating dead, with their paddles broken. Commercial fishermen caught them as a by product, and to keep from catching them again would break their snouts. Killing them slow but sure. I’ve seen it done, and even asked a guy why he was doing it. Only to motor away is disbelief.

    These days even with the dangerously low numbers of paddlefish there are a lot of guys that go out to catch them for the eggs. It is a lucrative business for some, a decent payday for others, especially in an area beset by poverty. It is also legal, there is a set season for taking them. Why the T.W.R.A. (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) does nothing to stop the harvest of paddlefish is beyond my understanding. To me it is akin to legalizing the taking of elephants or rhino, species on the brink.

    Even though it is still legal to take paddlefish, and the pay is good. I could never bring myself to do it. While I understand species go extinct, I could not bring myself to be a part of that process, especially by helping it along. I may be a lot of things, but participating in that line of work is incomprehensible.

  11. says

    Some of our moral indignation should be directed at the consumers of this product.

    No, it shouldn’t. Consumers should be able to take for granted that what they buy in a store is not the result of environmental destruction, and they should not have to research every product to ensure that it’s not somehow “bad”. This shifts the moral responsibility away from where it actually belongs.

  12. dogfightwithdogma says

    Area Man, I simply don’t agree. I fail to see how you are arriving at the conclusion that consumers have no moral responsibility here. I don’t agree that consumers should not have to research the products they purchase and consume. You offer no argument as to why they should be completely free of such a responsibility.

    Consumers should be able to take for granted that what they buy in a store is not the result of environmental destruction,…

    I think this to a rather imprudent operating principle. I don’t live by it and I certainly would not advise others to do so.

  13. microraptor says

    Consumers should be responsible and do the research to make sure that the products they purchase aren’t coming from environmental destruction. If you’re too lazy to look up whether or not the fish you’re eating is one that’s being harvested in a sustainable manner, you are part of the problem.

  14. unclefrogy says

    @13
    well yes but by extension that thinking would include much more than just caviar, it could include lumber of all kinds, and in many areas electricity as well, Oceanic fish and Crustaceans. Wouldn’t you have to extend that logic to crops that are grown in an environmentally destructive way as well? How about how we obtain mineral resources which are often obtained in a very destructive manner should the consumer be responsible for that too?
    uncle frogy

  15. anteprepro says

    It is almost impossible to have thorough background knowledge on every product you buy. That is the curse of the consumer: you will always have limited and imperfect information. If you choose to change that, it will be inevitably at the price of knowing less about the other products you are interested in. Or spending your entire life researching products to determine what the most ethical and efficient purchases are.

  16. says

    Area Man:

    No, it shouldn’t. Consumers should be able to take for granted that what they buy in a store is not the result of environmental destruction, and they should not have to research every product to ensure that it’s not somehow “bad”. This shifts the moral responsibility away from where it actually belongs.

    I agree with dogfightwithdogma-consumers should bear some of the moral responsibility, bc they create the demand that drives the harvesting of paddlefish eggs.
    Also, why should customers take for granted that what’s in a store hasn’t been the result of environmental destruction? What’s your rationale for this?

  17. says

    anteprepro:

    It is almost impossible to have thorough background knowledge on every product you buy.

    Even if one could, imagine the frustration to be had trying to determine which products to continue buying, which ones to stop buying, and which new ones you need to do research on.

  18. anteprepro says

    Tony!: Definitely. Considering the business practices most companies use, even if you were somehow omniscient and knew everything a company was involved with and every ethical problem with every part of a product’s creation, it would be agony to decide which one was least ethically gray. It is all a moral murk out there. Again, welcome to capitalism.

  19. says

    Area Man:

    Consumers should be able to take for granted that what they buy in a store is not the result of environmental destruction, and they should not have to research every product to ensure that it’s not somehow “bad”.

    Bullshit. Sustainability has been a huge keyword in food for many years now, especially when it comes to any type of seafood. It’s not as if it would take a ton of time and resources to find out if a specific type of caviar is sustainable and responsibly harvested.

  20. rossthompson says

    Consumers should be able to take for granted that what they buy in a store is not the result of environmental destruction, and they should not have to research every product to ensure that it’s not somehow “bad”.

    I think the key word is “should”. The choices presented to the consumer should all be as ethical as possible, and the consumer should be able to choose between cellphones without having to find out how the lithium in the battery was mined. Because doing that for every single product is hard. And still leaves you trying to balance ecological destruction against child slavery against corporate murder.

    But, of course, as things stand, almost everything on the shevels has some ethical cost, and the consumer does need to perform some kind of calculus to decide what meets their standards. But most people don’t; they make their choices based on a dozen different criteria, none of which are the ethics of production, and no education program is going to change that. We need regulations that make sure products offered for sale are produced ethically, simply because market forces are never going to get us there. We need that should to become a reality.

  21. unclefrogy says

    capitalism the reduction of the value of everything to money. Which is itself an abstraction forces everyone from individual to corporation to make the calculation of how much money can be spent on any particular thing.
    How do we make the trade off of money and death?
    uncle frogy

  22. chrisv says

    Let’s face it , we are a killing species. It’s what we do real well. We are the deadliest species on this planet.

  23. says

    chrisv:

    Let’s face it , we are a killing species. It’s what we do real well. We are the deadliest species on this planet.

    Imagine what we could accomplish as a species if we’d stop trying to injure, maim, or kill one another (or find ways to make those tasks simpler)?

  24. brett says

    @addicted44

    Capitalism can never be wrong, so this must just be accepted, because any attempts to charge for the externalities, or use market mechanisms to include the costs of fishing a species to extinction, or to prevent a species from being fished to extinction by enforcing sustainable fishing (which would lead to far greater long term benefits), is just SOCIALISM and Naziism.

    Do you see anyone just shrugging their shoulders about overfishing and saying “Oh capitalism”? No, because there’s widespread support for rules designed to prevent overfishing, and opposition is mainly coming from the fishing industries and their supporters in key countries.

    We do have mechanisms for blocking overfishing, and the overfishing problem in US waters has gotten a lot better in recent years. The problem is with international waters, where control over fish populations is ambiguous and enforcement much more difficult. It’s not a failure of capitalism – it’s a failure of governance.

    @methuseus

    According to the linked article, yes. The fishery was collapsing, the Soviets took over, fixed it, and almost immediately after the Soviet Union fell, the fishery started to collapse again.

    That’s good news. I’m glad they got at least a few environmental issues right amidst their many, many issues with environmental pollution.

  25. mildlymagnificent says

    Let’s face it , we are a killing species. It’s what we do real well. We are the deadliest species on this planet.

    And if we were still killing animals by the means we had available only a century or so ago, we’d still be treating the things we kill very differently. There was a famous aunt of my father’s who was known to use “every part of the pig but the squeal”. When she killed a pig, everyone had to eat roasts and chops and stews for a couple of weeks and she also dried and smoked ham and bacon, made sausages and pig’s head brawn out of other bits, and collected lard, made soap, collected the bristles and used every other process known to her to ensure that every last molecule of protein and fat from that one beast ended up being used as food or other useful household or farm product. And she wasn’t the only one – though not everyone tanned their own leather. (It was illegal in most towns. You had to take the skins to a tannery.)

    I have a similar view of things like caviar and shark’s fin. It’s entirely possible to collect these things and use them ethically – which means using every last portion of anything you kill and/or not killing things that you only need a little of. You just have to accept having less of them in some instances.

  26. Nick Gotts says

    It’s not a failure of capitalism – it’s a failure of governance. – brett

    Under capitalism, it is always an uphill struggle to prevent the destruction of natural resources if that is sufficiently profitable.

    opposition is mainly coming from the fishing industries and their supporters in key countries.

    But the nature of capitalism is that there will generally be a lobby with economic interests in destroying any natural resource that can be profitably exploited. And because of the way distribution of political power follows wealth under capitalism, such lobbies are very difficult to counter: they can hire full-time lobbyists and PR staff on a scale it is very hard to match. The big example, of course, is the fossil fuel industry and those users of fossil fuels (like airlines) that have no viable alternative to using huge quantities of fossil fuels. That’s why no effective action has been taken to avoid catastrophic climate change. In the medium term (a few decades, possibly a century), capitalism and civilisation are simply incompatible.

  27. brett says

    @Nick Gotts

    Under capitalism, it is always an uphill struggle to prevent the destruction of natural resources if that is sufficiently profitable.

    It’s an uphill struggle to preserve any natural resources when there’s something valuable in the area in question, capitalism or otherwise. Again, the Soviets had tons of issues with environmental pollution as well. There’s no political system that won’t be tempted to sacrifice long-term issues in favor of short-term gains.

    And because of the way distribution of political power follows wealth under capitalism, such lobbies are very difficult to counter: they can hire full-time lobbyists and PR staff on a scale it is very hard to match.

    It’s a fight, but we have plenty of examples of success. We got DDT banned, rivers mostly cleaned out (for a while), the timber industry restricted in what they could cut down on public lands, and so forth.

    The reason why little action has been taken on climate change isn’t because it’s somehow fundamentally impossible to do so under a capitalist system. It’s because the problem is very far off in most people’s minds, and the costs immediate.

  28. says

    Not everyone has the privilege (yes, privilege) of being able to research products that they use. Not everyone has the education. Or the resources, including access to the internet. Or the time or energy. Poor people cannot be expected to research every product they use. And poor people cannot be expected to afford alternatives that are more expensive or harder to come by. Being poor is already exhausting enough and now you think poor people should have yet even MORE burdens placed on them?

  29. dogfightwithdogma says

    @29 marilove

    Good points. But this does not excuse all consumers all the time. And it certainly does not excuse consumers in the particular case we are discussing. I think I am saying the obvious here when I say that caviar is not a food purchased and consumed by poor people. I think it is safe to say that those who consume caviar are likely more than enough equipped with the resources to research the environmental effects of caviar production. They are, I think, as morally and ethically culpable as those who produce the stuff.

  30. says

    Good points about caviar indeed, but many people here were talking very generally about what people “should” do and their “moral responsibility”. Most people don’t have the energy or means to research everything that they purchase.

  31. dogfightwithdogma says

    Agreed. We have no choice but to be subjectively selective about which products we choose to investigate. Not enough time to look at them all. I think we are agreed, however, that the notion that was advocated back at comment #12 by Area Man is not the principle to follow. We can not and should not remove consumers entirely from this particular equation.

  32. says

    Speaking of “shoulds”, there are all kinds of other “shoulds”. Such as having somewhat larger organizations handle the ethics of products on the market, which is more efficient than leaving it to individuals. Blog posts like this are medium range, not quite individual and not quite an organized handling of the situation.

    Not sure where I’m going with this. But what a mess.

  33. dogfightwithdogma says

    Just because something looks like glibertarianism to you does not mean it is. I am not a libertarian. I am a liberal and a progressive. This does not preclude me from believing and arguing that consumers have some responsibility for the choices they make. We can quibble about where to draw that line. But if you are arguing they have none or relatively very little then we are in disagreement.

  34. anteprepro says

    Quibbling seems to be what you do best, dogfightwithdogma. Consumers do have some responsibility, but the bulk of the responsibility should be on the companies. And they abdicate their responsibility, regularly and blatantly, because it is more convenient for them to forgo ethics. I don’t see why any significant portion of the blame should be on consumers for that, in all but the most blatant and heavily publicized of cases.

  35. says

    Bullshit. Sustainability has been a huge keyword in food for many years now, especially when it comes to any type of seafood. It’s not as if it would take a ton of time and resources to find out if a specific type of caviar is sustainable and responsibly harvested.

    Yes, as long as we can apply vague words like “sustainability” to things, we can then hector consumers who don’t buy “sustainability” things and then pretend like this solves the problem. Meanwhile, the actual problem is over-harvesting, which could be solved by stopping, you know, over-harvesting, but who wants to do that? Where’s the snide, cultural superiority dividend?

  36. says

    Also, why should customers take for granted that what’s in a store hasn’t been the result of environmental destruction? What’s your rationale for this?

    Uh, because I don’t want to be a consumer who has to accept the cost of other people’s externalities? What more rationale do I need?

    It is the producers who should be made to stop causing this problem. I am amazed that so-called liberals keep assuming that people who eat stuff are morally responsible for the actions of people who kill the stuff. If it’s bad to kill the stuff, then the people who kill the stuff should be forced to stop. With the all government enforcement that is necessary, and then some. If you think that the solution is to sneer at people who buy stuff at the store, you are being a libertarian stooge, whether you realize it or not.

  37. Nick Gotts says

    brett@28

    It’s an uphill struggle to preserve any natural resources when there’s something valuable in the area in question, capitalism or otherwise. Again, the Soviets had tons of issues with environmental pollution as well. There’s no political system that won’t be tempted to sacrifice long-term issues in favor of short-term gains.

    I didn’t say, or imply, that short-termism was only a problem under capitalism. However, under capitalism the search for private profit is the major determinant of economic activity, and the mobility of capital means that maximising short-term profit is a fundamental feature of the system in a way that was not true of pre-capitalist societies, and need not be true of post-capitalist ones.

    It’s a fight, but we have plenty of examples of success. We got DDT banned, rivers mostly cleaned out (for a while), the timber industry restricted in what they could cut down on public lands, and so forth.

    Hmm, how is it I get the impression you’re an American? In less fortunate parts of the world, river pollution and deforestation proceed apace – often for the profit of American (or other rich country) corporations. Corporations will factor in the costs of dealing with environmentalist, labour movement and other opposition in assessing profitability, and for a while that has been enough to divert them from certain environmentally destructive activities in rich countries with activist movements.

    The reason why little action has been taken on climate change isn’t because it’s somehow fundamentally impossible to do so under a capitalist system. It’s because the problem is very far off in most people’s minds

    And who do you think is putting immense resources into ensuring that the problem remains “very far off in most people’s minds”? Who is ensuring that the “debate” over settled climate science continues? Sponsoring spurious claims made by such as Lomborg that we can’t deal with climate change and combat poverty and disease? FFS, in the USA, where the extent to which politics is owned by the very rich is greater than in any other politically pluralist state, the entire Republican Party is now committed to a systematic campaign of lies about climate science, and the only alternative, the Democrats, are for the most part too craven to call them on it.

  38. says

    PDRA (Piedmont Divers and Rescue Association) owns 3 quarries in NC and we’ve purchased paddle fish from fisheries to populate the quarries. They are federally protected and transporting across the borders requires permit. Fishing is not allowed in the quarries and they are fenced so hopefully little preservation there.

  39. microraptor says

    Isn’t there an issue with the paddlefish not spawning because they use seasonal variations in water flow not found in the quarries as their triggers for when to spawn?

  40. microraptor says

    It is the producers who should be made to stop causing this problem.

    And just why would they do so if they can still make major profits of it? As long as the consumers are happy to purchase their products, the producers aren’t going to bother changing their ways. The only way to get them to change is by putting pressure on them by refusing to buy.

  41. dogfightwithdogma says

    Area Man @38

    It is the producers who should be made to stop causing this problem.

    How do you propose this be done.?

    I am amazed that so-called liberals keep assuming that people who eat stuff are morally responsible for the actions of people who kill the stuff.

    I suppose the reason you are surprised is because maybe you think all liberals should agree with you and that they aren’t true liberals if they don’t? Isn’t there a name for that logical fallacy?

    Perhaps some of us liberals think this because the producers would kill fewer of these fish if the consumers purchased less of the caviar. By the way, we are not saying the consumers are morally responsible for the actions of the producers. We are saying they are morally responsible for their act of purchasing a product that is having a damaging effect on the paddlefish. These are two separate acts. Both parties are morally responsible for their separate acts. If you don’t want to have any moral culpability for some activity that is having a negative effect then don’t support that activity by doing something that perpetuates it or helps sustain it.

  42. Paul says

    I feel dirty saying this, but paddlefish do well in a fish farming environment. It’s illegal in my state, but if done correctly aquaculture could help to replenish the species. Harvest a percentage of the roe and transfer the rest into a requisite growth and breeder program. If you want to sell Appalachian caviar, do it sustainably.
    Who am I kidding? Responsibility where money is involved? Not likely, even if responsibility involves not killing off your cash cow.

  43. Paul says

    I have to ask what they are quiet in comparison to? Roaring fictional sharks? They’re fish. Most fish are very quiet, silent even. I know that there are outliers but still, quiet? Anthropomorphic characters do invoke sympathy but let’s not be silly here.

  44. Ichthyic says

    Consumers should be able to take for granted that what they buy in a store is not the result of environmental destruction,…

    how about investors?

    should your average investor take for granted that the things they invest their money in are not overtly destructive?

    how about criminal?

    because that just ain’t so, and there ARE people IN JAIL because they failed to research what they were investing in.

    this, aside from the moral argument that we all should be responsible for what we invest in, whether it be by money, time, or votes.

    the argument that we as individuals should not be responsible is literally DEATH to a democracy.

  45. Ichthyic says

    The only way to get them to change is by putting pressure on them by refusing to buy.

    example:

    baby fur seals.

    not endangered, but the practice of clubbing them for furs was greatly diminished, mostly by reducing the demand for the furs themselves.

    many people, contrary to area man’s opinion, were easily convinced that they were indeed responsible, and stopped buying the furs, which severely curbed the practice.

    Let’s take it to a current issue:

    Japanese whaling, and eating dolphins. Where is the current effort being focused to change this behavior? It’s in trying to change the attitudes that lead to the demand for such meat to begin with.

  46. Ichthyic says

    I suppose the reason you are surprised is because maybe you think all liberals should agree with you

    yes, that describes Area Man perfectly.

  47. Ichthyic says

    Uh, because I don’t want to be a consumer who has to accept the cost of other people’s externalities? What more rationale do I need?

    Are you a voter? do you accept the cost of other people’s voting behavior, or even your own?

Leave a Reply