Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Antarctic Fisheries And Marine Meeting - Report

Please find below a report from the meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources under way and extending until the end of next week in Hobart. NZ has a delegation there. Please note that the ECO referred to in this report is not New Zealand's Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ but the name of an international journal published by NGOs at international environmental meetings of governments.

22, October 2001 CAMLR XX (1) Hobart, Tasmania ECO

An NGO Newspaper Published for the XX Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources


ECO welcomes delegates to the XX Meeting of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, but with much apprehension. There continue to be troubling signs that increasing commercial interest is focused on Antarctic marine living resources, they have forgotten the conservation. It is not at all clear that CCAMLR is equipped to face these challenges.

The Catch Documentation System for toothfish has been in effect for two seasons, yet IUU fishing continues to increase, and pirate fish continues to enter the trade through gaping loopholes that could easily be closed but for lack of political will. Thus, we begin CCAMLR XX with concerns that CCAMLR may be unable to control commercial exploitation of the Southern Ocean while economic pressures force delegates to set unsustainable catch levels in the absence of scientific data.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

In advance of this meeting ECO learned that vast amounts of toothfish are reportedly being harvested in areas adjacent to the Convention Area. It is impossible to know if these areas are unexpectedly rich in toothfish or if vessel masters are claiming to have fished in these areas to avoid compliance with CCAMLR's measures. The single largest step that delegates at this meeting could take to truly stop the trade of pirate toothfish would be to agree to mandatory VMS on all vessels involved in the toothfish trade - regardless of where those boats are fishing. Members have the right to refuse to import toothfish that is not accompanied by verifiable documentation.

IUU fishing pressure in the Southern Ocean is three fold:

1. it renders the sustainable management of fisheries impossible even if one is able to factor the amount being taken by the IUU operators into stock assessment,

2. the damage to the environment through indiscriminate gear and practices imposes huge cost on habitats and bycatch species, and 3. the economic and health and safety issues which allow huge profits to be derived with little regard to human conditions and life on the vessels. This is demonstrated by the loss of life of crew members from the Amur and the difficulties for the French in its attempts to rescue survivors and obtain information on the names of the deceased.

Until there is no doubt that pirate toothfish is not entering the global trade, ECO calls on delegates to this meeting to take the only step that will guarantee that toothfish - and albatrosses and petrels - populations will not crash on their watch: impose a moratorium on all toothfish fisheries.

As long as CCAMLR is unable or unwilling to eliminate pirate fishing, the measures designed to protect all components of the ecosystem - precautionary TACs, seabird by-catch mitigation devices, controlled opening of areas - will be ineffective. To allow this devastation to continue despite overwhelming evidence that toothfish stocks and albatross and petrel populations are plummeting - is unconscionable, and does not bode well for any future fisheries in the CCAMLR area. It is apparent to ECO that this crisis continues to undermine the Antarctic Treaty System.

Krill fishing continues at low levels, yet it is only a matter of time before it explodes - and there is mounting evidence that krill populations and the predators they support could not withstand a vastly increased harvest. Unless CCAMLR is willing to follow its charter to err on the side of caution, this fishery will quickly surmount CCAMLR's ability to manage. The time to manage this fishery is now - while fishing is at a low level, before states have invested heavily in the infrastructure necessary to support a sustained krill fishery. ECO calls on delegates to manage new and expanded krill fisheries just like all other fisheries - with controlled opening of seasons and areas and requirements for research - and most importantly, to ensure that fisheries are not concentrated near predator colonies.

There is growing awareness throughout the world of the value of marine protected areas for conservation of biodiversity. Article IX of the Convention provides for the designation of closed areas for the purposes of conservation or scientific study. The toothfish gold rush is undermining CCAMLR's mission to preserve Antarctica's marine ecosystem in an unmodified form.

The need to harmonize the progress of a fishery has been a concern of past meetings. ECO urges members to agree to a scheme that rationalizes and strengthens the current measures on new and exploratory fisheries with the steps that should be taken for "resumed" fisheries. This will need to be in place for toothfish fisheries once these are reopened after IUU fishing has been ended.

ECO calls upon delegates to CCAMLR XX to take the steps necessary as manager of one of the world's most important marine environments and make the right choices during the next two weeks. With the world's fishing industry looking south after overfishing many of the northern hemisphere's fishing grounds, CCAMLR cannot afford to fail.



Twenty years ago ECO greeted the establishment of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources with enthusiasm. At that time there were grave concerns about the increasing pressure on the Antarctic and Southern Ocean marine living resources, in particular Euphausia superba, the Antarctic krill. Emphasis on this species meant that The Convention was referred to in the early days as the "Krill Convention".

So what has the Convention delivered in its two decades? ECO is of the opinion that as well as achieving some ground-breaking milestones, the main target - the conservation of marine living resources - is still awaiting a serious commitment to implementation.

The biggest impediment to the effectiveness of CCAMLR remains the lack of commitment of a few nations - many of whom are members of CCAMLR.

The Good

ECO believes that the belated recognition by CCAMLR that it could no longer preside over the depletion of one species after another marked a turning point in CCAMLR's approach to management of the Southern Ocean. The Convention was originally negotiated in response to the increasing harvesting of krill and the recognition that impacts to predators could result. At that time there was so little known about krill that even its lifespan and reproductive cycles were underestimated. Increased finfishing effort which brought species such as Notothenia Rossii followed by Champsocephalus gunnari to the brink of commercial extinction forced CCAMLR to change its focus. In recent years, CCAMLR has adopted new measures on VMS and a ream of enforcement measures to ensure compliance. The most notable was the adoption of the CDS in response to IUU fishing. That this was negotiated and adopted by consensus within 2 years was due to the huge amount of intersessional work and meetings. The shift in governmental position of Contracting Parties to CCAMLR and the bringing on board of states such as Namibia and the engagement of states such as Mauritius and China is noteworthy.

The Bad and the Ugly

The time it took for CCAMLR to react to the IUU fishing pressure within CCAMLR waters, in EEZs, and in high seas adjacent to CCAMLR areas wins the prize for the low point in CCAMLR's history. This had very serious implications for CCAMLR especially as some of its Parties were either directly or indirectly involved. However, the lack of definition of explicit action to be taken by States is a major impediment to the success of the implementation of the CDS, and there remain several gaps that need to be plugged before we can be certain that it is effective.

In addition, the precautionary approach to the establishment of TACs for most species continues to be set with limited or lack of scientific data as the economic presence at CCAMLR has increased. Contracting Parties continue to stall and reserve rights to actions that could improve implementation and compliance with most measures.


The reality is that CCAMLR is only as good as its least committed member, and ECO believes that there are still enough of those around to undermine CCAMLR's charter to conserve marine living resources. This meeting must resolve the issues and solve the problem of non-compliance by its own members if CCAMLR is to truly celebrate its achievement and become as good as it could be and should be. ______________________________________


ECO is relieved that the krill fishery remains small, around 100,000 tonnes a year. We are especially relieved because CCAMLR seems ill-prepared to manage sustainably anything greater. Despite krill's position at the center of the Antarctic food web, CCAMLR has not developed a management plan for the krill fishery that protects predator populations. If krill populations, fishing, and predation were evenly distributed, and reproductive success were relatively constant then CCAMLR's management regime for krill could very well protect predators. However, krill tends to congregate unevenly throughout the area and not surprisingly, these congregations are within the foraging range of predators. It also shouldn't be surprising that the majority of the krill catch is taken on the shelf or at the shelf break, within the foraging range of predators.

The greatest threat to predators from the krill fishery would be a concentration of fishing activities within their foraging range. Fortunately, CCAMLR can protect predators by dividing the krill fishery into smaller management units, or predator management units. Within these units CCAMLR could imposed precautionary catch limits, and limit the fishing season to protect local predators. Managing the krill fishery with smaller management units is just the first step to establishing a precautionary management regime. Krill vessels should be required to collect data just as vessels involved in exploratory finfish fisheries.

Speaking of the finfish fisheries, ECO wonders why the krill fishery not only isn't subject to the same research requirements but also why CM148/XVII doesn't obligate krill vessels to operate VMS. CCAMLR should require all krill vessels to operate VMS and carry scientific observers.

ECO hopes that CCAMLR takes advantage of the small scale of the krill fishery to adopt precautionary measures new while the impact on existing fishing activities is small.



ECO notes with concern the unregulated fishing in Areas 41 and 51, adjacent to the Convention Area. Pirate fishers launder IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) catch taken from within CCAMLR waters, by declaring it as caught outside CCAMLR waters in Area 51. The only catch verification needed outside the CCAMLR area is the Captains word.

A recent analysis of CDS data by CCAMLR revealed a major gap in the CDS. Records show that 15,000 tonnes (green weight) of toothfish have come from Area 51. It is highly unlikely that this much toothfish can be taken from here, especially given that Area 48, considered the most productive in the area, had a TAC of just 11,686 tonnes. IF all of the toothfish is coming from Area 51, then this catch is clearly not sustainable. In such cases, the CDS is effectively legitimising pirate fishers rather than putting an end to their IUU activities.

"TRAFFICing" in Toothfish

ECO calls delegates´ attention to two recent Reports released by TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring programme of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and WWF. These Reports show that pirate fishing for toothfish is out of control and that CCAMLR's CDS has not been as effective at reducing IUU as they would like to believe.

Total trade in Patagonian Toothfish is twice the amount previously thought and half of the catch is IUU. The report, 'Patagonian toothfish. Are Conservation and Trade Measures Working?' shows IUU is about four times higher than CCAMLR estimates, which claimed the problem was declining.

'Antarctic Toothfish. An analysis of management, catch and trade' revealed that the catch levels of Antarctic toothfish may be more than twice as high as that reported to CCAMLR. Ten CCAMLR parties are identified as supplying Antarctic toothfish to the United States between 1999 - 2000. New Zealand was the only state to report catches -these accounted for only 10% of total imports. The other nine CCAMLR parties were Argentina, Chile, France, India, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Spain and Uruguay. There are problems because of the lack of specific trade codes - but even after accounting for this it is likely that IUU fishing for Antarctic toothfish is likely to be occurring, and both CCAMLR and non-CCAMLR parties are implicated. ECO urges delegates to act upon the contents and recommendations in the Reports.


CANADA DISGRACES ITSELF Fish trading sources tell us that Canada is becoming a popular country for laundering IUU toothfish. Canada is open to such abuse because, despite being an acceding state to CCAMLR, it has not implemented the Catch Documentation Scheme. Frustratingly, Canada is also not pulling its weight elsewhere in the Antarctic Treaty System insofar as it has not ratified the Madrid Protocol despite being an acceding state to the Antarctic Treaty and despite Canadian operators being significantly involved in the Antarctic tourist trade. Given the self-congratulatory tone with which Canada describes its environmental performance in fisheries management in other fora, it is hard for us to escape the conclusion that Canada is being rather hypocritical. As a major fishing nation, a member of the G7 group of leading industrialised countries, and an experienced circum-polar country, Canada should be playing a leading role in Antarctic affairs - not undermining the efforts of others.

It's time for CCAMLR member states to initiate trade sanctions against Canada in order to get it to stop undermining those Conservation Measures aimed at stamping out the trade in toothfish from IUU sources. ECO would like to suggest that the first sanction should be a ban on importing fish products from Canada. After all, if Canada cannot manage its peripheral involvement in the toothfish trade, how on earth is it going to control those of its companies already expressing interest in an expanding krill trade?


22 October 2001, Hobart, Tasmania.

Production Team

Margaret Adams, Neil James, Janet Dalziell, Roman Dolgov, Hugo de Groot II, Lyn Goldsworthy, Hendrik Van Kooijmans & Sebastian Swift.

ECO is published by Friends of the Earth and others at international environmental meetings. This volume is a joint project of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, Friends of the Earth International, World Wide Fund for Nature International and The Antarctica Project.

The Editorial Office is at Tasmanian Conservation Trust, 102 Bathhrust Street, Hobart, Tasmania 7000, Australia Tel: (61) (03) 6234 3552

ECO is financed from non-governmental sources.

ECO's role is to provide ideas and alternative proposals to the delegates to intergovernmental meetings, report on the meetings, inform the public in order to generate wide-ranging debate, and to clarify the issues for the media. Special thanks to Bear Gulch Fund, CS Fund, Greenpeace Netherlands, Greenpeace International, The Humane Society of the US, Packard Foundation, Tinker Foundation, Turner Foundation, WWF US and WWF International.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.