Growing calls to protect Ross Sea
Sun, 29 Jul 2012 6:19p.m.
By Michael Morrah
New Zealand is unlikely to stop fishing for toothfish in the Ross Sea, despite growing calls to protect what's considered the last pristine ocean on Earth.
A soon-to-be released documentary says New Zealand should pull out of the area, but the New Zealand Government has other ideas.
The toothfish and its species is worth around $26 million to New Zealand every year.
We first started fishing for it in the Ross Sea in 1996. Conservationists say it's time to pull out.
“There is no pristine ocean left on planet Earth,” says documentary maker Peter Young. “But this is the closest thing we have to it.”
Peter Young has been working on his documentary The Last Ocean for the past six years.
It will premiere at the New Zealand International Film Festival this Wednesday.
“For the scientists it's important because it's what they call a living laboratory,” says Mr Young. “It's a place where they can see eco-systems functioning how they used to before humans came along and started interfering with the natural balance.”
The Southern Ocean fishery is regulated by a committee made up of 26 countries.
A meeting in October will decide its future.
Both New Zealand and the United States will propose at that meeting that large parts of the Ross Sea be protected.
But a group of NGOs known as the Antarctic Ocean Alliance want almost the entire area made a marine reserve.
“Certainly it's a huge ambitious ask, but unless countries are willing to forgo their own vested domestic interests, and I think New Zealand with a vested interest in the fishery there must lead by example,” says Greenpeace campaigner Karli Thomas.
But New Zealand boats are unlikely to pull out.
“Our overall interest in that fishery is $20 million to $30 million a year,” says Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully. “I've seen conflicting views. The mainstream view I have seen is that this is still a healthy fishery.”
“The Government wants its cake and it wants to eat it too,” says Mr Young. “It just doesn't work when you get down to your last ocean.”
It is the last ocean that's home to much more than just toothfish, and that conservationists say is at risk unless bold action is taken.
A Government expert will represent New Zealand at October's meeting in Hobart, Australia.
But even getting partial protection may be tough. Any decision on the future of the Southern Ocean fishery requires consensus from all 26 countries.
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6/08/2012 12:22:38 p.m.
My sentiments exactly Ridley - they should just leave the fishermen alone!
4/08/2012 10:28:57 a.m.
Its despicable, why cant they just leave them alone.
31/07/2012 4:45:34 p.m.
The data collected DOES NOT come from fishing captains -it comes from independent observers - are you questioning their independence?. Stock assessments are based on tag return rates and on length frequency/sexual maturity data. There has been none of the reduction in fish size at maturuty that was seen in the Patagonian toothfish for example. Research has also been carried out by NIWA (in fact their vessel regularly features in the Last Ocean documentary seen in the background and portrayed as a 'fishing vessel') The fish stock is not collapsing. All Toothfish in the Ross Sea are caught in waters with a surface temp of -1 to -2 degrees. I'm fairly confidant that this would qualify as sub zero. Could the lack of fish being caught through holes in the ice be due to pollution from the bases? Given that fishing is not allowed in less than 700m and is therefore well offshore that would seem to be the more obvious culprit.
The degree of care that is taken while fishing plus the research and oversight carried out make this fishery much more environmentally sound than any of our local fisheries.
31/07/2012 4:40:58 a.m.
David Ainley wrote:
Jethro, I hear what you're saying but as one of those 'scientists' you refer to, I ask that you please read recent papers about the Ross Sea toothfish published in the journals: Antarctic Science, Aquatic Mammals and Fish & Fisheries, all highly regarded, peer reviewed journals. Unlike any well managed fisheries elsewhere, the Ross Sea data that CCAMLR uses are derived ONLY from fishing vessels, with no independent verification, e.g. acoustic surveys, scientific surveys, etc. Well managed fisheries have several sources of data the are independent of each other thus to be able to verify results. The data CCAMLR uses comes from fishing captains whose only goal is to catch as much fish as fast as possible and then get out of the Ross Sea before they get trapped. To cover expenses, they target the biggest, oldest, most healthy fish. They go to where the fish are, rather than the random sampling that the fishery models require. The only independent data, and I'm speaking of those from 1) Weddell seals, 2) killer whales, and 3) a 40-year science project in McMurdo Sound, are showing that these predators are having to spend alot more effort these days looking for food and the scientists can no longer catch toothfish at the edge of the fishing grounds. The fish stock is collapsing but you won't sense that by fishing at its center, where the industrial vessels hang out and where CCAMLR gets its data. As a result, most of the 'data' in CCAMLR's models are necessarily derived from other fish, none of which lives in subzero water, where physiological rates are severely affected. The next time you talk to your local fishery expert, ask him/her what justification there is in borrowing recruitment potential data from North Atlantic fish species and applying it to Antarctic toothfish? I'm really curious what the answer will be. Something like, "it's the best we can do, you know, make a best guess." Finally, with surveillance satellites etc you can prevent "others from going there."
30/07/2012 2:09:34 p.m.
Antarctic Toothfish are far from being fished out!! Don't rely on one article to form an opinion on this and definately don't rely on Last Ocean. The 'scientists' who make these claims are unable to produce any data to support them despite being asked numerous times. A huge amount of real science has been done on this all of it showing stocks are healthy. You cannot undiscover these fishing grounds and you cannot prevent others from going there -they do not belong to NZ. The Ross Sea fishery is the most strictly managed fishery I have ever seen and the NZ fishermen who work those waters deserve praise for there ability to add to the national wealth while still sticking to sound environmental standards -standards which are much higher than most of the people who read this article would ever be willing to apply. I urge you to learn more - learn is the key word, not just regurgitaing other peoples uninformed views(and no I'm not a fisherman)
29/07/2012 7:43:25 p.m.
debbie park wrote:
Im disgusted in nz fishing out the toothfish. we all go on about other countries. Im embarrased to be a nzer.
Bloody politicians and the people who just are in it for the money.
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