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not dragged, but can save the cost of bait by trapping fish by the head and
strangling them; a lost and drifting gill net can strangle fish for up to five
Kurlansky's (1997) account of the fishing out of the almost unimaginably abundant
cod grounds of the north-west Atlantic, a thousand-year story climaxed by the types
of technology highlighted above, shows the immense scale of these encounters
which have passed by and continue to pass by largely unconsidered in ethical terms.
When our gaze can penetrate these spaces, what we see is equally startling and
disturbing. In one of the many natural history films made by the BBC and fronted
by David Attenborough, an underwater camera followed an ocean-going fishing
trawler as the catch that had been made was sorted on deck. As the boat proceeded,
the camera recorded a steady rain of differing dead creatures—those of no economic
value thrown back overboard—as they sank down past the camera to the seabed
below. Here, maybe, they would be eaten by sharks, which had been caught, had
their fins cut off and then thrown back into the sea, but which survive by squirming
across the sea bed. The bi-kill of fishing is recorded at 50 per cent of the total catch,
since in the pursuit of some prey, others are indiscriminately slaughtered. Big-game
fishing, shark-hunting and fishing more generally are still devoid of any widespread
ethical consideration. This, when compared to the concern for some land-based human
—animal relations, shows just how distant from our ethical vision are these other
beings living in this profoundly other form of space. As Smith (1998:23) proposes,
factors of distance and otherness have long been seen as critical in the dissipation of
ethical concern, citing Ginzburg's (1994:108) use of Aristotle's assertion that 'the
nearness of the terrible makes men [sic] pity…. Men also pity those who resemble
Another example of the failure of our ethical gaze to penetrate watery spaces is the
factory farming of salmon. Apart from a number of environmental management
problems which have attracted some attention, there would appear to be significant
ethical issues here which apparently go completely unconsidered. Salmon have long
been held up as icons of the 'wonder of nature' because of their remarkable life-
cycle. Ironically, it is the very spatiality of this, the distances, the navigation feats
and the returning to the same river to spawn, which has made it so. This has been
reflected in the building of salmon steps to allow them to pass river engineering
features. But now millions of salmon are denied this life-cycle, having instead the
dimensions of a fish-farm cage as their life territory. The consequences of this
inability of salmon to respond to whatever drives their natural cycles no doubt
cannot be easily assessed, but, suffering or not, it is surely an issue which needs some
sort of ethical assessment. Yet this is apparently lacking, again perhaps due to the
very otherness of these beings and the spaces in which their stories unfold.
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