The Ross Sea

September 13th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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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8 Responses to “The Ross Sea”

  1. PaulL (6,040 comments) says:

    DPF: your card to the VRWC should be revoked. National are exactly right that to note that outright banning fishing is not consistent with our economic growth. The question is whether the fishing they envisage is going to cause any issues in terms of the desired outcome of protection.

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  2. Fost (102 comments) says:

    DPF – I disagree only with your statement about whaling if only as we know that the whales are amongst the most intelligent of animals with considerable higher levels of cognition – thus hunting them – using current methods – is inhumane. I enjoy eating meat, and have even hunted and eaten what I killed (limited to possum/rabbit by economics/opportunity), but want to see it done humanely.

    The more aware the animal can be, the more care must be taken to ensure it it humane – and whaling does not meet this test at all – I’d not accept, and believe most people would not accept eating beef that had been killed by gut shooting it and leaving it to bleed to death over an hour or more. Possibly the methods used for the very smallest whales come closest, where they are herded close to shore, but even then I have real reservations that this could be considered humane. There is also problem with eating the top of any food chain – poison accumulation the main one – thus we eat herbivores not carnivores in the main – and whales are pretty much the top of their respective food chain.

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  3. my 2 cents (1,091 comments) says:

    Finally I’m on the same page as you!
    Good points, a nursery is a nursery and if you want plenty of strong bigger fish we shouldn’t stuff around with it.
    lets make the whole Ross Sea a reserve.

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  4. Dean Papa (784 comments) says:

    The only whale hunting I could support would be of the fat blogger variety.

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  5. PaulL (6,040 comments) says:

    Fost: the mistake is equating all whales. As with land mammals, the herbivores are generally a bit less sentient – more like sheep – the carnivores are smarter and more like dogs or (at the top end) chimps. Just banning eating whales makes no more sense than banning eating land mammals does.

    I’m in favour of banning whaling of the top end whales – blue whales (like elephants to me), Orca, dolphins, humpbacks (top of the food chain predators – charismatic mega fauna). I have less concern over, for example, minke whales, which are quite numerous and effectively are the sheep of the sea.

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  6. eziryder (15 comments) says:

    I visited this fishery (via Gareth Morgans Our Far South initiative) in February. We rendezvoused with one of Sanfords vessels which was carrying out a tooth fish survey for NIWA. During our voyage, (nearly a month) and during discussion with people knowledgable about the fishery, I concluded that it is probably more sustainable than many of our other fisheries in our EEZ. There are other advantages in having a presence near the Ross Sea in terms of surveillance. The fishing methodology has low impact, and there is ongoing monitoring with every hundredth fish tagged and released. Its not only “$20M”, its an important and integral part of our fishing industry. Time we stopped leaping onto every bandwagon that goes past, this particular one is very light on logic and substance.

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  7. KH (695 comments) says:

    Make the whole thing a reserve.
    Stopping that is what you might expect from Brownlee and Carter. But I thought Steven Joyce had more brains.

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  8. Pundit (8 comments) says:

    The issue is that this is the Ross Sea is international commons governed by international consensus wielded under the CCAMLR regime. To deliver a marine reserve across all of the Ross Sea is not a decision for the US and New Zealand alone. It requires the consent and agreement of a large number of other countries with fishing interests in the region that any realistic person would conclude they have no interest whatsoever in giving. The Ukraine, Russia, South Koreans and Spanish are extremely unlikely to agree to any proposal – they are fundamentally of a different view on the governance of the global commons and rights of access to them and would not want to see the sitting of a marine reserve in international waters lest it lead to further initiatives in areas where fishing really is a problem. New Zealand’s contribution to Ross Sea management of what seems to be pretty sound science that contributes to catch limit setting, and to a presence that help to deter the uncontrolled and illegal fishing that would otherwise certainly take place, is as strong a contribution to the management of the area as we can make. That costs money and the model that successive governments have followed, of engaging industry with a requirement to undertake public good science is a good balance and one should stay. With the fishery under ice for 2/3 of the year its future prospects are not too bad. But it is unrealistic to expect that it will be left in its entirety.

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