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Ross Sea Strategy Adopted

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Hon Jim Anderton
Minister of Fisheries

Hon Chris Carter
Minister of Conservation

31 March 2006

Ross Sea Strategy Adopted

The Government has approved a New Zealand strategy for the future management of the marine living resources and biodiversity of the Ross Sea.

“New Zealand’s strategic interests in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and our commitment to protecting the Antarctic environment mean we have to take a leadership role on these issues,” Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton and Conservation Minister Chris Carter said.

Under the strategy New Zealand will seek a balance between well managed and sustainable harvesting of fisheries resources, in accordance with conservation principles of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). New Zealand will also be a leader in advocating for the protection of the Ross Sea to safeguard the long-term viability of its marine ecosystems and unique biological diversity.

“New Zealand has been leading the way on marine protection in Antarctic waters. We are currently building the scientific case for a marine protected area in international waters around the unique Balleny Islands archipelago on the edge of the Ross Sea,’’ the Ministers said, pointing to the government-funded voyages of the vessels Tiama and Tangaroa to the Ross Sea region this summer.

"The strategy’s key components also include combating illegal fishing in the Ross Sea and Southern Ocean, increasing marine research and improving fisheries management within the area covered by the CCAMLR Convention which is part of the Antarctic Treaty System."

The Ministers said New Zealand is also committed to strengthening the Antarctic Treaty System which has ensured the use of Antarctica for peaceful purposes as well as the protection of its environment for almost 50 years.

Views on a Ross Sea strategy were sought by the Government through a public consultation process in 2005 and numerous submissions were received including from the fishing industry, environmental non-governmental organisations and the research community.

A synopsis of the submissions received is available at www.mfat.govt.nz/foreign/antarctica/ross/rossseasubmissionssummary.html. For more information about CCAMLR, see www.ccamlr.org.

Questions and Answers

Why is there the need for a strategy and who has prepared it?

The Ross Sea is important to New Zealand because of our sovereignty interest in the Ross Dependency, our commitment to protecting the Antarctic environment, and our wider strategic interest in peace and stability in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

This means New Zealand needs to continue to take a leadership role in the Antarctic Treaty System, in particular in CCAMLR, on matters affecting the future management of the marine living resources and biodiversity of the Ross Sea. An agreed whole of government strategy will support this leadership role. The strategy has been prepared by the Officials Antarctic Committee which comprises departments with an interest in Antarctica and which is chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

What are the key elements of the strategy?
The strategy has five key aspects. These are:

- Increased marine research and ecosystem monitoring in the Ross Sea;
- Promoting the establishment of marine protected areas on the high seas in the CCAMLR Area;
- Better fisheries management within CCAMLR;
- The successful deterrence and reduction of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing; and
- Improved effectiveness of the Antarctic Treaty System;

What is the Antarctic Treaty System?

The cornerstone of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) is the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 of which New Zealand was one of the twelve original signatories. The Treaty preserves Antarctica exclusively for peaceful purposes and facilitates scientific research there as well as protecting the environment.

The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources is also part of the Treaty System. It is implemented by a Commission also known by the acronym CCAMLR which is headquartered in Hobart, Tasmania. New Zealand is a founding member of CCAMLR and a leading contributor to its scientific work which underpins the organisation’s management of Southern Ocean fisheries including those for the Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish. Whaling is dealt with outside the Antarctic Treaty System by the International Whaling Commission.


What are CCAMLR’s conservation principles?

The CCAMLR Convention defines conservation as including rational use. CCAMLR’s conservation principles aim to prevent the decrease in the size of any harvested population to levels below those which ensure its stable recruitment; to maintain the ecological relationships between harvested and other populations of Antarctic marine living resources; and, to minimise the risk of changes in the marine ecosystem which are not able to be reversed over two or three decades.

What are the marine protection priorities?

Broadly these include safeguarding the long-term ecological viability of marine systems and protecting Antarctic marine biological diversity and areas potentially vulnerable to human impacts. New Zealand is one of the leading countries in CCAMLR in promoting marine protection.

What is the current level of fishing in the Ross Sea?

CCAMLR has set an overall limit for the toothfish catch in the Ross Sea and adjacent areas for the 2005/06 season (which has now closed) at around 3,500 tonnes. This limit was based on a stock assessment provided to CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee last year by New Zealand scientists.

In the past season four vessels from New Zealand and others from Argentina, Norway, Russia, the United Kingdom and Uruguay took part in the fishery. All vessels were required to undertake research including a toothfish-tagging programme. The export value to New Zealand of toothfish from the Ross Sea was estimated to be $21.5 million in 2004/05.

Why will fishing be allowed to continue?

As previously noted, CCAMLR allows for the ‘rational use’ of marine living resources. New Zealand scientists are confident that the current catch limits in the Ross Sea are sustainable in terms of CCAMLR’s conservation principles. All decisions taken by CCAMLR must be taken by consensus. While some organisations have promoted a ban on fishing for toothfish there is no prospect of an international consensus on this.

ENDS


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