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Ross Sea Surveillance Stepped Up

18 January 2001

New Zealand is to undertake surveillance in the Ross Sea for the fourth year running because of ongoing concern about illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean, Acting Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Jim Sutton said today.

"Ongoing concern about illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean requires a concrete response by Antarctic Treaty System states. If New Zealand didn't undertake surveillance in the Ross Sea region, Antarctic waters immediately to our south off the Ross Dependency would likely suffer the same fate as other places fished to virtual commercial extinction," Mr Sutton said.

Long range Orion surveillance flights will be used to find illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing for toothfish, and also monitor vessels approved to conduct limited "exploratory fishing" under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living resources (CCAMLR).

The surveillance programme starts this month for the summer season.

Mr Sutton said Southern Ocean Patagonian toothfish stock depletion is an example of what can happen. Its stocks have been substantially depleted by illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing to the point that its survival as a commercially viable target fish is in doubt.

He said the Government remains concerned because unsatisfied international demand for Patagonian Toothfish means continued illegal fishing for it is likely. For the last three years New Zealand has responded to concerns about potential illegal fishing for Antarctic Toothfish in the Ross Sea region through its surveillance programme.

"Japanese whaling activities are also taking place this season in the Ross Sea and it's very appropriate to monitor this activity" said Mr Sutton.

In addition, this year CCAMLR has approved the opening of the area to vessels of other nationalities which allows for one Uruguayan, three New Zealand, and two South African vessels to fish in the Ross Sea.

Mr Sutton said New Zealand has proposed a marine protected area be established around the Balleny Islands in the Ross Sea, where thousands of birds breed on remote ice topped cliffs.

Aerial surveillance monitoring New Zealand's area of responsibility is crucial to ensure the area's ecology is conserved and protected, and that only sustainable fishing activities take place.

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