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Opening the Antartica Non-Native Species Workshop

10th April 2006

Opening the Antartica Non-Native Species Workshop

Minister of Biosecurity, Jim Anderton opened the Antarctica Non-Native Species Workshop in Christchurch today, which is the first forum to specifically address biosecurity issues in Antarctica and brings delegates from France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and also our own specialists in the field from New Zealand.

"Antarctic treaty parties have a good record of being proactive. The Antarctic Fisheries Convention was the first to take an 'ecosystem-wide' approach to fisheries management, which dates back to 1980," Jim Anderton said today.

"In an ideal world it would be difficult for intruders and biohazards to make it to the ice. However, we know that Antarctica's eco-system is fragile and it is under growing threat from invasion by outside species. And we don't know enough about the Antarctic region yet.

"Our experience from New Zealand incursions tells us that the risk is that incursions will go unnoticed until they are well established. Once we have found them, the options for dealing with them are few. There is not enough science to draw on; there is little understanding of how species will behave in our conditions. We need to make sure our decisions are based on science and on the needs and views of everyone affected by those decisions.

"I've painted a picture of the risks that should concern anyone who is moved by the wonder of the Antarctic continent. We must be motivated to act. The Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty recently brought in tough provisions to preserve the Antarctic environment. The continent has been designated as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science.

"This workshop is another example of Antarctic treaty parties taking a proactive approach and shows we are taking biosecurity in Antarctica very seriously," Jim Anderton said.

The paper that comes from this workshop then goes to the Antarctica Treaty meeting in Edinburgh in June.

ENDS

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