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No Progress at Antarctic Fishing Meeting

www.asoc.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Business as usual for CCAMLR as Antarctica's fish and wildlife hang in the balance

HOBART, 3 November 2000--Governments have blindly set fishing quotas for the threatened toothfish despite huge scientific uncertainty about how much fish has already been caught by pirate fishers in Antarctic waters.

The 23 governments of CCAMLR (the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) failed to agree tough action to protect toothfish and the many species of threatened seabirds killed on pirate longlines. Members of the 250 conservation groups represented by the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) had called on CCAMLR to agree a moratorium on fishing for toothfish.

"At this meeting, governments have only paid lip service to the environmental destruction caused by pirate fishers to toothfish and albatross populations," said ASOC campaigner Mark Stevens. "They all but ignored scientists warnings that the massive pirate fishing of toothfish in Antarctica's oceans has compromised their ability to set their own fishing quotas."

Driven by the economic interests of their own commercial fishing companies, CCAMLR is set today to continue to seek substantial quotas. The legal catches last year were 14, 441 tonnes. There is no new scientific information to indicate that an increase in CCAMLR quota is sustainable.

"CCAMLR is simply making wild guesses when it comes to estimating how much toothfish pirate fishers are pulling out of the Southern Ocean ecosystem," said Stevens. "The scientists admit that they are working with very little information about how many pirate vessels are out there, how many fishing trips they undertake each year or the amount of fish transhipped from the pirates to other vessels at sea."

CCAMLR sources suggest that pirate catches for the 1999/2000 season were about one half of the total legal catch. They admit that it is likely that the true catch was higher - perhaps 25% higher. ASOC believes it is much higher still.

A trade measure agreed by CCAMLR at last year's meeting has not slowed the trade in pirate caught toothfish. Pirate companies are still finding ports to land their catches and markets to sell their fish.

"It's clear that CCAMLR has put its faith in an inadequate trade documentation scheme which stopped pitifully few pirate caught toothfish landings from reaching markets this year," said Stevens. "Countries that are not CCAMLR members such as the emerging market of China are refusing to take part in the scheme."

CCAMLR is also increasing quotas for krill -- a keystone species in the Southern Ocean ecosystem -- by nearly four times despite it's own admission that it lacks scientific data on the effects of krill fishing on localised predator species such as penguins and whales. CCAMLR also doesn't expect to have a krill fishery management plan in place for 5-10 years.

For more information, please contact: Mark Stevens or Alan Hemmings on 03 62253989, or Desley Mather on 0413 837 135, Or Beth Clark in Washington DC ++1 202 234 2480 NOTES: Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish is known as "Chilean seabass" in North American markets and as "Antarctic/ice fish in the UK

Barry Weeber Senior Researcher Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society PO Box 631 Wellington New Zealand Phone 64-4-385-7374 Fax 64-4-385-7373 www.forest-bird.org.nz


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