Western Science: ideology or objective reality?

Visual theses: How objective is this food chart?
When figures fly? Skeptical public concerned about environmental crisis
Traditional Ecological Knowledge TEK
(Newfoundland fishermen)

The International Marine Mammal Association (IMMA) under the direction of Dr. David Lavigne, have published some of the most influential reports affecting public debates on the seal hunt. Dr. Lavigne's reports are often cited by the International Fund for Animal Welfare in their media campaigns.

A low resolution copy of this diagram has been removed from this page at the request of David Lavigne, June 4, 2002.

This "simplified" image was created by the IMMA to illustrate the complexities of the food chain. The crosshatching of hundreds of lines makes it virtually impossible to establish the eating habits of seals. Proving seals consume dangerously high quantities of fish is difficult. How much, how and what seals eat was contested in the seal hunt debates. Culling seals as risk management measure remains a contentious issue.

Newfoundland fishermen contend that seal consumption habits threaten cod stocks which are barely recovering from years of commercial overfishing. Local hunters claimed that seals bite chunks out of a fish, leaving the dead fish to disintegrate. "Belly-biting" seals do not consume entire fish but kill greater quantities in order to eat the delicacies, like the liver.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans are now working with local hunters in Atlantic Canada on a a seal collector program.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans attempts to maintain population counts on seal populations in northern and eastern Canadian waters, specifically ringed and hooded seals. They claim that figures are needed in order to protect seal populations and integrity of the ecosystems in which they live while also giving responsible support to the sealing industry. The DFO uses aerial surveys to count seals.

For ringed seals, a sampling program has begun in Hudsonís Bay, in cooperation with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, in response to a suspected population decline. Ringed seals are a critical prey item for polar bears in the North so any proposal for a commercial harvest of this species would have to take into account the potential impact on polar bear abundance and harvests.

Recommendation 4

Further, the accumulated knowledge and observation of those who have traditionally lived along Canadaís northern and eastern seacoast and who rely upon its wildlife for survival should complement and strengthen modern science. Accordingly, the Departmentís research efforts and recommendations must include both traditional and community knowledge.

Government Response

The Government agrees and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has for some years ensured that local and traditional knowledge is brought into its stock assessments, including seal assessments. Most of the Departmentís work in seal assessment in the North is carried out in close collaboration with, and with significant funding from, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board or the Fisheries Joint Management Committee under land claims agreements. As such, the work must be approved by local hunters and trappers organizations, which contribute their knowledge to the study and assessment. Many studies of seal biology or population dynamics begin with the acquisition of traditional knowledge. For example, traditional knowledge is being included in the sampling program for ringed seals in Hudsonís Bay (see Recommendation 3).

This undecipherable food <>chart is presented as accurate, objective evidence of the impossibility of establishing accurate numbers on the oceanic food web links. It is purposefully confusing. It contains more information than is necessary. It illustrates the challenges facing marine research projects that seek to clarify the interconnectedness of ocean life.

Charts and tables enhance and give weight to scientific reports.

A simplified food web for the Northwest Atlantic

Metaphorically in western science nature has also been visualized as female while science is male. The relationship between science and nature has been one of control and domination. Francis Bacon claimed that science should "lead[...] to you Nature with all her children to bind her to your service and make her your slave..." "...to conquer and subdue her, to shake her to her foundations."

Western scientific knowledge used as a means to control and dominate
Evelyn Fox Keller belief that the need to dominate is a cultural construct of masculinity. (Keller 1982, 19??:35) She asserts that through our conscious selves we have choices to control or not, to dominate or not. We can have selfhood without the need to dominate. She feels that knowledge construction, particularly scientific knowledge construction has been used as a means of domination. Knowledge as power becomes an expression of aggressivity that fuels a need for control. She uses a sexual metaphor in which union (with nature) can provide eros/ectasy while domination of nature provides aggressive ectasy. (Keller 1982, 19??:36)


© Maureen Flynn-Burhoe 2000. Last updated web design (not content) February 2002.
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