Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 11th 2014 Contents A28
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, August 11, 2014
It is often declared that knowledge is power. No! No!
Character is power. Nothing can be more powerful on
earth than character. Riches, scholarship, status,
authority, etc. are all frail and flimsy before it. There is
no dearth of books today; nor is there lack of gurus.
Educational institutions spread knowledge everywhere.
The Sun of Knowledge (Jnaana Bhaskara) is
showering His rays in plenty to all alike. But, one can
hardly find those who have imbibed the nectarous
wisdom thus offered and are dwelling in the ecstasy it
can confer. The mountain range with lust, anger,
hatred, envy and pride as the peaks, shuts out the
splendor of the Sun. Charity, compassion, fortitude,
sympathy, and sacrifice, arise from the higher levels of
consciousness while opposite tendencies breed in the
lower levels. Remember, a strong virtuous character
cannot be earned from any book; it is earned only
through intimate involvement with society.
What is true 'power'?
How can one acquire it?
explains to us today.
The end of education is character - Baba
Itravel quite frequently and, for
the most part, my hotel book-
ing or rental car arrangements
have usually gone off without a
hitch. But when I do encounter
the odd snafu, I ensure that I do
not sit idly by and say nothing.
Having grown up in a culture
of business, I know what to ex-
pect both as a customer and as
a provider of services, since I
can see the action from oppo-
So when I do encounter bad
service I am quick to react to
it---that's the only way we can
For instance, when I found
my check-in experience at Hertz
Car rental was less than accept-
able, I wrote the management
and they promptly replied ac-
knowledging my discomfort and
offered me a full refund---as
they did when I returned a car
with a faulty accelerator pedal. I
declined those generous offers,
since all I wanted was an apol-
At a recent stay in a Califor-
nia hotel, there were some ants
on the bathroom counter and
the toilet was giving trouble---I
reported it to the front desk but
they were slow to act.
What did I then do? I wrote
management and was offered
profuse apologies and free
nights to compensate. Once
more, I refused since it was the
principle of the matter, not the
recompense that I was after.
Even my US cellphone
provider, having charged my
credit card multiple times for
the same transaction, acknowl-
edged their mistake and added
one year's worth of minutes for
free to make up for my dis-
Having seen how my dealings
with customer service were
supposed to be handled, my
daughter, having had a most un-
pleasant experience at a top
named spa in Trinidad, decided
to write the management to
voice her concerns after her
visit. Unlike me she is usually
quite tolerant but this incident
upset her greatly.
How differently the locals re-
acted to her letter of complaint.
She was, though in veiled lan-
guage, called a liar as they
stood by their employees'
words, despite the fact that my
daughter's friend, who accom-
panied her on the spa visit, and
had almost the exact same
problem, could attest to the ve-
racity of her claims. What a dif-
I hastened to comfort my
crestfallen daughter and ad-
vised that she had an unfair ex-
pectation of what would have
happened with customer serv-
ice in Trinidad---over here we
practice customer no-service.
Moral of the story: no visions
of 2020 excellence, no amount
of patting ourselves on the
shoulder and saying we are
world-class, no harping on our
perceived sense of self-impor-
tance of what we bring to the
world, will ever take us out of
the mire that we, as a people,
find ourselves in. We need to fix
the basic things first.
Business people (and here I
am speaking as a businessman
myself) need to understand
that we pay their salaries and
afford them their lifestyles, and
consumers need to recognise
that they have the power in
When we continue to accept
bad service, yet continue to pay
for it, we spoil it for others. I, for
one, will never ever accept less
than excellence where I am
spending my money and a con-
tracted service is involved.
T&T s Cabinet has approved the
recommendation of the Ministry of
the Environment and Water
Resources to ban shark finning.
Food Production Minister Devant
Maharaj announced this after last
week s Cabinet meeting.
Shark-finning is the cruel and
wasteful practice of cutting off a
shark s fin while it is still alive, and
throwing away the carcass.
It is blamed for up to 100 million
shark deaths each year, but banning
finning locally will not make a big
impact on shark conservation. Only
a ban on the trade, importation,
exportation and landing of shark
fin and a shark sanctuary will be
T&T is the number-six exporter
of shark fin to Hong Kong, the
world s largest shark fin market.
The fins for this export originate
mostly from the Atlantic. They are
caught by foreign owned, foreign
flagged longliners outside of T&T s
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
T&T provides a free zone base for
these vessels use to land and re-
export their destructive catch.
While banning shark finning
locally shows good intention on
part of the government to protect
sharks, the ban must be extended
to cover cross-border trade.
This is a historic opportunity for
our small island state to have a
game changing impact on global
shark conservation. We can be
leaders of global conservation.
Sharks are apex predators. Many
shark species also function as key-
stone species in the ocean ecosys-
Think of a keystone in a build-
ing. If that one stone is removed,
the whole structure comes tum-
Many species are hurtling
towards extinction. Up to 50 per
cent of shark species will be
extinct by the year 2050. Without
sharks the oceans become less
healthy, and less productive.
More than one billion people
depend on the sea for food or their
livelihood. To protect their wellbe-
ing we must protect sharks,
because protecting sharks means
protecting the oceans.
The best way to protect sharks
locally is by implementing a shark
sanctuary in T&T. This means that
all sharks should be off the menu.
Total protection for sharks means
no catching, selling, trading,
importing, exporting or eating
sharks or shark products.
If a fisherman catches at sea it
should be returned to the sea.
Sharks are hardy survivors, and
many will recover after being
thrown back alive. Not all species
respond equally, though. Hammer-
head sharks are pretty much
doomed if caught.
This raises the issue of shark-
friendly fishing methods. Many
sharks are caught as bycatch in the
gillnet fishery, which is extremely
There are alternatives, like line
and hook fishing. Consumers can
exercise conservation power by
asking what fishing gear was used
to catch the fish they purchase.
Consumers can sustain responsible
fisheries by making sure they buy
from sustainable sources.
We can protect sharks by choos-
ing sustainable alternatives, like
tilapia or flying fish. We should not
be spooning sharks out of bowls or
eating them fried in a bake.
Eating shark is a national tradi-
tion, but when a tradition becomes
unsustainable it must change.
Loving good food is T&T culture.
Eating endangered species is not.
They are also full of mercury, and
pregnant women and children
should never eat shark.
We will need to implement soci-
etal change. Some people are
scared by change of any sort, but
cultures that fail to evolve and
adapt perish. History is littered
with the remnants of failed civili-
For centuries China was a sleep-
ing dragon, a failed state, held back
by old traditions. But China is
changing. It is surging forward in
all aspects, and to do so it evolves,
adapting new traditions and dis-
carding old ones. One revered tra-
dition is the serving of shark fin
Shark fin soup was once reserved
for the emperors. As China became
wealthier, millions of people began
to serve shark fin soup at official
events such as weddings, the sign-
ing of business contracts and other
important occasions. It is part of
their culture, but they are changing
Demand-reduction campaigns by
conservation groups have brought
awareness about the plight of
sharks to Chinese consumers.
Chinese celebrities are working
together with environmental advo-
cacy groups to change a thousand-
year-old tradition. It is working.
The Chinese government has
announced it will no longer serve
shark fin soup at official events.
In a recent poll by conservation
group WildAid, up to 85 per cent
of Chinese respondents said they
would no longer eat shark fin soup.
If the Chinese can evolve to stop
eating shark fin, Trinidadians and
Tobagonians can evolve to stop
eating shark meat.
We must adapt to protect, evolve
to survive. Our laws must evolve to
ban the trade, import, export and
landing of shark fin and the imple-
mentation of a shark sanctuary.
Marc de Verteuil
SHARK FINNING BAN ALONE
WON'T SAVE SHARKS
attitude in T&T
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