Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Famous Grouse: December 11, 2010

Latest Weekend Argus column (as submitted, unedited) -- AD

THE other evening, at Mahogany Ridge, a chap came round with a petition about the rock lobster quotas for recreational fishing just as a discussion on the rampant poaching of same that takes place on an almost daily basis just a stone’s throw from the Slangkop lighthouse appeared to be edging towards a violent conclusion.

A letter had appeared in one of the community newspapers detailing a resident’s encounter with these poachers, apparently members of what is referred to in some quarters as the local Rastafarian community, although I fail to see how the sporting of dreadlocks and thuggish behavior makes one a devotee of this obsessively backward religious cult. It’s rather like calling paedophiles Catholics.

According to the newspaper’s correspondent, a group of maybe ten dreadfuls had hauled out about a thousand or so mainly undersized crayfish, and were busily loading black dustbin bags full of their spoils into a bakkie when he came across them.

It was the poachers’ stupid and rather aggressive comments when confronted -- “The ocean is for ever!” “Don’t interfere with our work!” “We know where you live!” -- that had set us off at the Ridge, and it was perhaps not a good time to flap about a piece of paper and call for signatures demanding that decent, law-abiding folk have a more sensible crack at what’s left on the ocean floor.

Two distinct factions had emerged, both of them largely unreasonable.

One was of the opinion that it was futile to bother oneself with notions of marine conservancy, or any form of action aimed at protecting our wildernesses for that matter, because the environment had been plundered to the extent that it was now only a matter of months, if not weeks, before the Atlantic was as barren as the Sahara.

Therefore, to avoid missing out on the spoils, become a poacher yourself and get in at the death, as it were. Everyone was doing it, and, as experience has shown, no-one would stop you, certainly not the authorities.

This was where the other group differed, loudly opining that it was not yet too late to make a difference -- although drastic action was needed, such as banning fishing altogether. Well, within a 50-kilometre radius of the lighthouse. (Please note: the consumption of alcohol had little to do with the formation of this opinion.)

I liked the thinking here, and where it was going. More of that in a moment. First I must admit that I fail to see the point of crayfish. It’s not even a fish, so why call it that? To my mind, there’s something distastefully gluttonous about the culture of eating these things. Anyone who has ever seen the aftermath of an all-you-can-eat Mozambican prawn binge on a Sunday afternoon in Johannesburg’s southern suburbs will get my drift. It’s not pretty, all those greasy faces, the peri-peri and lemon butterstains, the shells in the laps, the wheezing and wind-breaking at the table. It means little to me, therefore, if I never see a crayfish again, and I’d rather they were just left alone in the sea to scurry about and eat waste.

I realise, however, that this is a minority viewpoint. But I don’t care. This is not an age of consensus, and anyway, most people don’t know what’s good for them. Which is why our plan to save the village from the crayfish menace will probably come as a surprise to the residents and ratepayers’ association.

True, they may object to having been ignored in the process altogether, but they’ll shut up soon enough when our radical cell gets its Lotto funding.

We’ve asked for a lot. Ordinarily, you’d think the tom would be more appropriately doled out to charities and various other worthy concerns, but events this week have shown otherwise. If the National Youth Development Agency can get R40-million for its anti-imperialism beano, then we too should be allowed a fair whack of the Lotto cake to implement our scheme.

Our plan is simple really. And when you’re dealing with the National Lotteries Board it has to be simple. That’s a mistake often made by those waiting in vain for money for Aids hospices or lunatic self-help schemes aimed at empowering rural women -- too complicated by half.

All we want to do is ban all forms of boating here. No exceptions. Poachers and people who buy from them will be forced to eat their catches on the spot. Then they will be put in stocks on the slipway, and small children will be encouraged to throw rocks at them.

It may seem excessive, unpopular even, but, you know, one day, you’ll thank us.

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