Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sea Of Heartbreak Cont.

Last entry I described a little bit about the book Sea of Heartbreak. I told you about the cruelty of the fisherman toward animals and the general bad attitude they have towards the sea that they make their living from. They shoot at polar bears, they shoot at whales, they torture birds and garbage is just thrown overboard in plastic bags.

What I didn’t get to in the last entry was the fishing nets. The fishing nets used in this expedition are called gill nets. Basically the fish swims into the net, gets stuck, and can’t swim back out because its gills are trapped in the net. The nets used today are made with polypropylene monofilament webbing which doesn’t tangle as easy, is more durable, is much lighter and cheaper but will not breakdown if lost or discarded at sea. Author Michael Dwyer does a great job of describing how “deadly efficient” these nets are.

“The fishing gear is designed, made and set in a deadly efficient way. Set like a fence across the bottom, the webbing eventually fills with sea creatures and “lies down.” Crabs, the scrubbing action from contact with the seafloor and time serve eventually to consume and breakdown the sea creatures. When this happens the nets rise up again and fish indiscriminately. They fill up and lie down, over and over, forever. Stories have been told of draggers finding old, lost gear and the nets are filled with skeletons of every kind. As horrible as it is, it’s legal and it’s a common form of commercial fishing.”

So I’m just learning about all of this now as I’m guessing you are (which is why I am writing this). Is there no one who checks with the captain before he sets sail to find out how many nets he’s bringing out? Then when he comes back, checks to see how many he left at sea? Is this more complicated than I am making it? Surely there is something that can be done.

Like I talked about in previous posts, I believe that everything we have here on Earth is a gift. We need to be stewards of these gifts and look after them as responsibly as we can. So now that I’ve been made aware of this issue, my eyes have been opened and I cannot just sit here and claim ignorance. I have to do something. And if you have read this far, then WE have to do something. I’m starting by just telling people about it. Breaking the ignorance. If you don’t know about an issue you have an excuse. Once you DO know about an issue there are no excuses. There needs to be some sort of action or in the very least an acknowledgment.

In trying to do my part I’m asking you to do at least one of two things.

1. Please help spread the information. You have a blog? Blog about it or link people to these posts. Email some close friends and family and tell them to check out these posts. Bring the topic up with friends or co-workers or members of your church. . . Spread the word!
2. Get more informed. Read Sea Of Heartbreak and anything else on the topic. If you have the means buy it, if not, check out your local library.

I’m also going to continue spreading the word and learning more. I know there are so many things in this world that we can contribute our time to. And there are so many problems that need our attention. I have trouble figuring where this fits in when there are children dying because they don’t have cheap medication to stop a simple sickness like diarrhea. I'll keep telling people about World Vision from stage which I know is having an impact and for now, it seems this whole issue is something God has placed in my path and I need to act on it.



Monday, August 07, 2006

Sea Of Heartbreak

Shooting whales for no reason. Torturing birds. Throwing bags of garbage into the ocean. Cutting loose nets that will fish the waters forever. These are some of the violations of nature that Michael Dwyer had to endure seeing while on board a fishing expedition in the waters off the coast of Labrador Canada.

After the expedition Michael put into words everything he saw and wrote Sea Of Heartbreak. Living in a place like Newfoundland and writing a book like Sea Of Heartbreak was a very brave thing for him to do. In a small town in a province where jobs are hard to find, and fishing is still one the biggest industries; Michael has been blacklisted from ever getting another job aboard a fishing vessel because of this book!

In August of 1998 Michael was in desperate need of work. Not just financially was he in need but not being able to provide as a husband and father was also taking its toll. So when the opportunity came up for a job on a fishing trip with the prospect of making good money he took it right away. What followed was about a month and a half at sea, sailing along Iceburg Alley, trying to fish for Turbot that were not nearly as plentiful as hoped.

From what I can tell it wasn’t the small paycheck or the time away from home or the often violent sea that really made this trip difficult, it was the attitude the men on board had for the very waters that they earn their living from.

Michael’s first experience with this attitude or “way of life” came after dinner during his first day on board. He had been on clean up duty for that meal. One of the crew members asked Michael to throw the compressed bag of garbage over the side of the boat. Being his first day on the job and not wanting to ruffle any feathers Michael followed the orders.
“Watching the bag fall astern, playing peekabo in the swells, I tried to remember the last time I had done such a shameful thing as to deliberately pollute the sea with garbage.”

The day this ship set sail, it was loaded with truckloads of supplies.
“After the five-week voyage, the only garbage left onboard was a little bit in the galley at the bottom of the gum bucket.”
What?? That’s it!!?? My family just went camping in Algonquin park for a few days and we carried all of our garbage including dirty diapers in backpacks until we got back to our vehicle. Then it stayed in there until we were out of the park and we found our first garbage can. Surely a boat can figure out how to store a bit of garbage till their next stop.

Throughout the book Michael gives some great descriptions of the amazing nature he’s able to observe. From iceburgs to glacier carved cliffs and the tundra of the north to wild birds and seals and polar bears and caribou. He also describes a visit they made to an abandoned Inuit village where he saw his first polar bear. He also describes how the majority of the crew seemed to do what they could to destroy what he was enjoying so much.

Some members of the crew were always looking for polar bears just so they could try to shoot one. They would also often use the wild birds that fly around the ship for target practice. It seemed they really didn’t like these birds. Michael describes how one time they caught two of these birds and proceeded to smear fish parts on their bodies. Then they tied two birds together at the legs and watched them peck each other to death.

Continued next entry . . .


Friday, August 04, 2006

A New Friend, An Amazing Story

My posts seem to be on a theme right now. Talking about the gifts we have been given my next couple of posts are going to fit in quite well.

I’ve had an interesting and unusual experience over the past couple of days. About three or four days ago I finished a book called Sea Of Heartbreak. This book is an account of a fishing voyage that took place in Newfoundland Canada in 1998. Because of my family connections with Newfoundland, (birthplace of my wife and Mother) it has always been a place I’ve been interested in. There is something romantic about the ruggedness and barrenness of the land and sea there. And of course the people there are some of the most enjoyable people to spend time with anywhere.

So I picked up this book because it had a forward by Farley Mowat. Farley Mowat is a well known Canadian writer who has written many books. I’ve only read a couple and wanted to find another one by him to read. In fact, I only picked up Sea Of Heartbreak because it showed up when I searched Farley’s name! It looked interesting enough so I brought it home.

I started reading it on my way down to West Palm Beach, Florida where the band was going to be playing for a week. One night I was awake between 1:30am and 5:00am reading until I finished it off! I’ve always been interested in life at sea but this was not the romantic story of a fisherman at sea that I have always conjured up in my mind. When I finished the book at 5:00am that morning I decided I needed to contact the author to get some resolution to what I had just read. After all, this was a true account.

I was unable to find any contact information on the book which didn’t surprise me but there’s the good old handy dandy internet to help one find whatever it is they need. So I searched and searched, but still no email address for him. Finally I decided to just look him up in the city where he lives, that was on the book after all. Sure enough I found his name and phone number and without hesitation I made the call to Newfoundland.

Within a couple of rings he answered the phone. I was a little surprised how quick it all happened. What was I doing calling the author of a book I had just read? I’ve never done that before. I nervously explained to him that I just finished his book and that I wasn’t a stalker but I just wanted some resolution to the book. We had a great conversation that lasted about twenty minutes. I feel like we made some sort of connection with each other during that time. We exchanged email addresses and later that night and the next day sent a couple of emails back and forth.

Michael has an amazing story. It is full of beauty and harshness and recklessness and ignorance. It is one you need to know about, one that everyone needs to know about. I want to tell you more but this entry may already be too long so until my next post . . .



Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Gifts and Heaven

“Then how can tongue describe all the beauty and use of the creation, which the divine bounty has poured out for man to see and take, although he is condemned to such toils and miseries? The diverse and varied beauty of sky and earth and sea, the abundance and loveliness of light in sun and moon and stars, the shady woods, the colours and perfumes of flowers, the many species of bright and chattering birds, the vast variety of living creatures, the smallest of which move us to the greatest wonder (for we are more surprised by the accomplishments of ants and bees than by the size of whales)! The grand spectacle of the sea, dressing itself in its different garments, now green, now blue, now purple: what a lovely sight it is when it is rough – much more agreeable to the spectator from the shore than to the sailor tossed upon it! What abundance of food to meet our hunger! What a variety of flavours to suit our taste, all distributed by the bounty of nature, not produced by the skill and labour of the cook! In so many circumstances what remedies for protecting or recovering health! How pleasant the alternation of day and night! How soothing the coolness of the breeze! How much material for clothing in trees and beasts! All blessings who can enumerate?

Here I have just dealt with a casual collection, but if I wished to open up the whole store and deal with each and every one, how tedious should I be! And these are all consolations of mankind under judgement, not the rewards of those in bliss. What then must they be like, if these are so many and so great? What will God give to all those whom he has predestined to life, if he has given all this to those whom he has predestined to death?”

St. Augustine, City Of God

I just read this the other day and I thought it was a great continuation from my last blog. The way he describes all the gifts in nature we have been given really paints a beautiful picture. Then it is this sentence that gets me, “And these are all consolations of mankind under judgement, not the rewards of those in bliss.” How wonderful heaven will be!




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