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Major progress on Antarctic fisheries conservation

Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ inc
Website: www.eco.org.nz

Hobart and Wellington – 7 November 2007

Major progress on Antarctic fisheries conservation welcomed

The Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO) welcomed the major step forward in protecting the Antarctic marine environment agreed last week at the Antarctic Marine Living Resources Meeting (CCAMLR) which concluded on Friday.

ECO Spokesperson, Clive Monds, said agreement on new measures to apply to all bottom fishing techniques was warmly welcomed.

ECO is a member of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition which was represented at the meeting.

CCAMLR has lead the way having already prohibited bottom trawling and gillnets on the high seas last year. “Now CCAMLR has developed measures to mitigate the impact of longlines on vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs).”

Mr Monds said the requirement to protect VMEs came out of last year’s UN General Assembly resolution which required all regional fisheries organisations to act by the end of next year.

“New Zealand and other countries will now have to research and develop measures to avoid the impact of bottom longlining for toothfish on seamounts, cold-water corals and sponge gardens.”

Mr Monds said there was growing evidence from toothfish fisheries of Australia and around South Georgia that bottom longlines impact on long-lived cold water corals.

“The CCAMLR meeting also decided to implement new measures to apply to the krill fishery and agreed to 100 percent observer coverage on one krill fishery south of Australia.”

“The meeting also agreed to limit the krill catch until there were measures in place to subdivide the catch to protect a range of marine species that rely on krill, including penguins, whales and seals.”

Mr Monds said there was a major focus on the krill fishery which recognised the expanding interest in fishing for krill in the Southern Oceans. “ECO notes that European operators are using Vanuatu and the Cook Islands as fronts for fishing for krill.”

“At the meeting both Vanuatu and the Cook Islands withdrew their proposal to take nearly a quarter of a million tonnes of krill.”

Mr Monds said it was disappointing that proposals to implement market measures to reduce illegal, unauthorised and unreported (IUU) fishing for toothfish were blocked by Argentina.

“Over 3000 tonnes of IUU toothfish are being taken from CCAMLR waters by a range of pirate operators.”

The European Commission is to be congratulated in proposing this market measure. “It is tragic for the toothfish populations in the Southern Ocean that one country could have blocked agreement by CCAMLR.”

“ECO hoped that the European Commission will work to get the measure passed next year.”

Argentina and several other countries blocked progress on a measure proposed by Australia to improve the current system of inspection of vessels on the high seas.

Mr Monds said CCAMLR also agreed to undertake a review of its performance and that will include a nominee of NGOs.

For further information contact Clive Monds 021 309 123

Notes:

ECO has 65 member organizations with a shared concern for the environment.

The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition is a global network of groups with a concern for the Antarctic and Southern Ocean. ASOC represents these organisations CCAMLR and other related meetings. ECO has been a member for over 20 years.

ASOC presented four major papers to the meeting: on a strategic plan for krill, marine protected areas, market measures to combat IUU fishing; and on climate change.

The highlights of the meeting include measures to:
• Protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from bottom fishing;
• Require greater research and management prior to any krill fishing in the Ross Sea and a large area South of South Africa;
• Tighten reporting measures in the krill fishery to ensure that catch limits are not exceeded;
• Require 100 percent observer coverage in any krill fishery South of Australia;
• Reduce the exploratory commercial toothfish catch in the Ross Sea to 2660 tonnes.

The meeting also agreed to a process which should lead to the subdivision of krill catches into small scale management units next year to protect krill predators including whales, penguins and seals.

The meeting also adopted a resolution on the International Polar Year – Census on Marine Life. The research vessel Tangaroa and five other vessels are undertaking cruises of the Southern Ocean to expand or knowledge of the Antarctic marine environment.

ENDS

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