By Imogen Crispe
Toothfish protestors plan to continue action as more ships leave the Port of Nelson to fish in the Ross Sea this week.
The group was demonstrating both in and out of the water from 9am yesterday, when the Tally-Sealord fishing boat Janas set off for Antarctica from Nelson.
Independent environmental activist Colin Robertson was at the protest in a boat and says about 15 others attended the protest, some in the water, some on a boat and some on the land.
He says the protestors want to highlight the issue of toothfishing in the Ross Sea leading up to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) discussions in Germany next year.
“We’re raising awareness specifically so that people recognise what’s happening.
The protestors want the Ross Sea area made into a marine reserve.
“The only way it can be sustainable in the long term is to have a rethink of marine reserves,” Mr Robertson says.
“Time is running out until we get a robust multi-national agreement.”
However a CCAMLR meeting in Hobart last month failed to reach an agreement about creating a marine protected area in the Ross Sea.
New Zealand and the United States had proposed an area of 2.27 million square kilometres to be protected, allowing limited fishing in some areas.
The toothfish fishery is worth around $50 million to New Zealand annually and uses a tag and release system to calculate how many fish there are.
Mr Robertson worries that the general public doesn’t realise the extent of the threat to Antarctica.
“A lot of people have the idea it’s quite pristine down there […] but it’s not untouched.
He says there would have been more people at yesterday’s protest, but the boat left five hours earlier than its scheduled time.
The protestors had people at the port watching for when it was going to leave, then let the other activists know when they saw the pilot boat leaving.
Mr Robertson says it makes it difficult to coordinate the protests because if the shipping company or the port finds out about them, they often change the sailing times for the vessels.
There are a number of other Ross Sea-bound fishing vessels set to leave this week and next week, but Mr Robertson says he doesn’t know if it will be possible to coordinate a protest when the leaving times aren’t fixed.
“With the changing times, people can’t just get off work.”
He is hoping to hold a general protest in the weekend.