You can carry a gun in New Mexico, but you can’t tuna fish.
“The Civil War had a profound impact on Holmes the professor and the jurist. His experience in bloody conflict made him an unsentimental realist who understood law as an expression of power, not the intellectual pursuit of formal rules. It is not too much to say that his experience in war led to perhaps his most famous pronouncement (in The Common Law in 1881), which has had great influence down the years: “The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience.” — Ben Heineman Jr.
Some time in the mid-Ninties I found myself on a late Autumn auto tour of the Four Corners area of the Southwest United States.
When I travel I make a habit of listening to the local news and talk-radio station because I find it interesting to hear what the local concerns are in this place or that, and what I heard on the radio in Northwestern New Mexico surprised me a little bit.
The radio was doing an interview with a high-ranking law enforcement officer (The commander of the state troopers by recollection) about Winter driving safety tips.
Distances are vast in the Southwest and the weather can be unforgiving, so some of his tips were expected. A blanket and spare warm clothing, a cell-phone (less common back then), food, water. Then he made a suggestion that caught me by surprise: a recommendation that drivers carry a gun.
His logic was simple.
Broken down on the side of the road — 20, 40, 60 miles from the nearest law enforcement officer — cell phone or not, you might find yourself in a situation where you’d have to take care of yourself.
Some people find contemplating such possibilities thrilling.
I do not.
I find them stomach-churning. Merely imaging myself in a life and death struggle with another human being gives me a dull ache in the pit of my stomach.
But please don’t mistake my discomfort with the thought of mortal combat with revulsion for guns or a rejection of the New Mexico policeman’s advice. When I lived in Oregon I carried a firearm in my car as a matter of course. I was just surprised to hear a law enforcement officer explicitly endorse the practice.
Of the “Tuna Wars” between Ecuador and the United States, MIT professors Lincoln P. Bloomfield and Allen Moulton, specialists in international conflict resolution say this:
Economically underdeveloped Ecuador, lacking an exploitable continental shelf and mindful of the rich fishing potential off its coast, in 1952 along with Peru and Chile claimed a 200-mile territorial limit. The US continued to recognize a 3-mile limit plus, in 1966, a 9-mile contiguous fisheries zone. The so-called “tuna war” began in 1963 when a US fishing boat challenging the 200-mile limit was seized and fined by Ecuador. Other seizures followed, also in Peru and Chile. In 1967 the US began compensating the fined US owners although not deducting the amount from aid to Ecuador as US law provided. In December 1968 US military sales to Ecuador were suspended under a newly-passed law, but renewed in July 1969 despite further seizures. Four-nation talks were held in August 1969 and September 1970. On January 18 1971, with seizures since 1966 totalling 28 vessels, the US again suspended military sales and placed all aid “under review.” The OAS opposed U.S. moves to submit the case to inter-American peaceful settlement or the ICJ. On February 1, Ecuador ordered the US military mission withdrawn. By March 3 seizures for 1971 alone totalled 25.
Ecuador is a tiny country, and in 1952 200 miles exceeded the international norm by nearly 2 orders of magnitude. Ecuador’s navy boasted a mere 21 ships (more than half supplied by the US!)
And yet despite these seemingly lopsided odds, by the time the dust settled (by the time the fish were fried?) Ecuador won.
In fact, not only did Ecuador prevail in its “war” with the US, Ecuador’s battle with the US ended up re-writing international law. Today, Ecuador, the US, and most other costal countries both demand and respect a 200 mile claim on resource exploitation. (This doesn’t stop countries, even countries that have neighborly relations from beefing about boundaries, but that’s a post for another day.)
I know about the Tuna Wars because I grew up in San Diego, CA in the late 60s and 70s, and some of the boats seized by Ecuador sailed out of San Diego Harbor. In San Diego, it was obvious that a 200 mile limit on fishing was outrageous, especially on fish that migrate across oceans; tuna that might be off the coast of Ecuador one month, and in the middle of the Pacific the next, and off the coast of New Zealand the month after that.
It was obvious.
No less obvious in San Diego in the 1970s was the fact that Japanese long-lining for swordfish was immoral. I know it was immoral because in the late 70s my father and I ran a swordboat, and in its wisdom and mercy, the great state of California prohibited boats sailing out of California ports and under California licenses from long-lining for swords. We had to catch swordfish like men, standing at the front of the boat, on a plank, with a harpoon.
These days my daughters go to school with the children of longliners. When I take guests out for afternoon outings I point out these children’s father’s boats and say, “Those are longliners, like the Andrea Gail and the Hannah Boden in the movie The Perfect Storm.”
I don’t really have any opinions about the morality of long-lining anymore, but if I did, I’d keep them to myself.