The Ross Sea

Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reported:

New Zealand has brushed aside a US offer of cooperation over the establishment of a reserve which would protect the Antarctic Toothfish in the Ross Sea and submitted its own more conservative proposal.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully this afternoon announced New Zealand will submit a proposal for a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Ross Sea.

The proposal would be submitted tomorrow which is the deadline set by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the 25 nation group which manages and conservation in Antartic waters.

“If successful, this will be the largest MPA anywhere in the world – nine times the size of New Zealand”, Mr McCully said in a statement.

New Zealand had discussed the feasibility of a join proposal with the United States, “but each country will offer a separate proposal for CCAMLR’s consideration,” he said.

Some protection for the Ross Sea is better than no protection, but it is disappointing we are not supporting the entire Ross Sea having the same protection as  itself has.

I am very pro-fishing – both in an economic sense, and also because I love seafood. But there are two areas where I think fishing should not happen.

The first is when a species is endangered or falling below a sustainable level. I’ve got no problems with hunting whales, so long as the population is large enough. Fishing should be sustainable.

The second area where fishing should not happen, is in marine reserves. Just as we have some parts of our land which we leave untouched as nature designed them there are areas of our oceans where we should do the same. And the world has enough oceans for us to have plenty of space to fish in.

Antarctica is a stunning example of a pristine environment, where human activity is minimal and pretty much solely scientific. I think it is the most amazing area on the planet, and will refuse to die until I have actually got down to the continent myself. The various countries that signed the Antarctic Treaty were visionary in setting aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve.

However the treaty only applies to the land, and not the surrounding Ross Sea, This body of water also has huge scientific value, and it should be one of those areas on the planet where fishing is not allowed.

I saw a film called The Last Ocean at the recent NZ Film Festival*. It makes a strong case for protecting the entire Ross Sea, to preserve the most pristine marine ecosystem on Earth.

Claire Trevett reports in the Herald:

Marine expert Sylvia Earle says New Zealand needs to step up and seek as much protection for the oceans of the Antarctic as it gives to the land area.

Dr Earle, feted for her ocean exploration by the White House and named Time’s Hero for the Planet, is backing the Antarctic Ocean Alliance’s call for a marine reserve in the Ross Sea to halt fishing of krill and the Antarctic toothfish by New Zealand and other countries.

“You’d think every nation would say ‘wait we must protect this. It’s valuable to us, to our knowledge to our future.’

“Yet they are taking wildlife out of this very special part of the Antarctic waters that belong to everyone – they don’t just belong to New Zealand or Australia or the US or Russia.”

This week, the Government rejected a USA proposal for a marine reserve which would have offered greater protection than New Zealand wanted for the Antarctic toothfish in the Ross Sea.

The US has no fishing interests in the Ross Sea, but New Zealand companies take a large proportion of the annual Ross Sea toothfish catch – last year they landed 730 tonnes with an export value of $20 million.

The Herald understands the joint proposal was thwarted in Cabinet by ministers Gerry Brownlee, David Carter and Steven Joyce on the grounds it was not consistent with the Government’s economic growth objectives.

I think this is a regrettable decision. There are many other areas where companies can fish. I support having the Ross Sea given the same protection as Antarctica itself.

*The film is a good watch. I especially recall it as I was sitting next to a Herald journalist and as the lights when out I whispered to her in very bad taste and said “Is this when the Joker appears?”. I then realised there was a more apt Batman villain, and said “Or will it be The Penguin?”. At that exact point in time the film stated with a shot of a penguin on ice. Said journalist and myself started to piss ourselves with laughter, as other film goers were staring at us wondering how the hell we could find an image of a penguin so funny. I suspect she won’t sit next to me in any more films!

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