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Urgent calls for protection of the Ross Sea and marine mammals

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The decision of South Korea today not to proceed with its plan for so-called ‘scientific whaling’ is a tremendous relief to all who are concerned about the state of the world’s oceans. (1) However, the intense pressure on Antarctica’s Ross Sea from overfishing and mineral exploration remains.  New Zealand has a particular role in the protection of the eco-systems of Antarctica and its surrounding seas due to its proximity to the continent, its own territorial claims, and its Christchurch launching pad for US Antarctic missions (2). Earlier this week, environmental groups responding to a just-issued report on the health of Antarctica say the New Zealand Government is in prime position to champion new protection measures for the region.(3)

Mahlon "Chuck" Kennicutt II, professor of oceanography and author of the study, says the Antarctic Treaty System that governs the continent has worked well since it was established in 1962 and that 50 countries currently adhere to the treaty, but it is under pressure today from global climate changes and the ever-present interest in the area's natural resources, from fish to krill to oil to gas to minerals.(4)

However, despite the Treaty, there is little regard for the interconnected nature of the ecosystem in Antarctica.  Antarctic waters are home to almost 10,000 unique and diverse species, many of which cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. Whaling continues, as does large-scale fishing in the Ross Sea. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) enacted a moratorium on all commercial whaling. Since then, three nations - Iceland, Norway, and Japan - have brutally slaughtered over 25,000 whales under the guise of scientific research and for commercial purposes. The IWC does not have the capacity to enforce the moratorium.

New Zealand has allowed fishing for Antarctic toothfish since 1996. Antarctic toothfish can live up to fifty years, grow relatively slowly and reproduce late in life. These characteristics make them highly vulnerable to overfishing.

In October this year 25 countries, including New Zealand, will meet to discuss creating a network of marine reserves in the Antarctic. As a first step, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) (5), a coalition of leading environmental and conservation organisations, including Greenpeace, is urging comprehensive protection of the Ross Sea region .

While these moves to create marine reserves should be applauded, much broader action must urgently be taken. All of Antarctica and its waters should be protected from exploitation of any type. The world’s oceans are dying as a result of global climate change and hyper-exploitation. Numerous studies show that the state of the world's oceans are in severe decline. We have consumed around 90 percent of the large predatory fish (5) and we are now pushing into the furthest corners to find more. In the face of this, places of rich biodiversity like the Ross Sea become even more valuable to the health and well-being of the greater oceans and planet.

When France was testing nuclear weapons in the South Pacific, New Zealand sent its navy in protest. Just last year when Japan resumed its annual whale hunt, the Australian government took it to court. Many people in NZ want to see some action by the NZ government on whaling and conservation of the world's oceans. But no government here or anywhere else will do anything without massive public pressure on the streets. It's up to us to stop the destruction.

Notes

(1) http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/asia/7298454/South-Korea-scuttles-whaling-plan

(2) http://www.converge.org.nz/abc/otherbases.html

(3) http://www.eco.org.nz/news/214/60/New-Zealand-in-prime-position-to-prote...

(4) http://www.sciencecodex.com/antarctica_faces_major_threats_in_the_21st_c...

(5) http://www.antarcticocean.org/home.php

(6) http://www.lastocean.co.nz/Commercial-Fishing/Last-Ocean-New-Zealand-__I...

Comments

Marine protection starts on your own back beach

Not much us ruby-loving New Zealanders can do about Antarctica (brrr), but there are threatened marine mammels closer to home. The Maui dolphins need to be protected from offside flankers who keep catching them in gill nets and trawl nets. The greenies reckon there's only 50 or so of the poor buggers left!

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=10817910

I reckon fair play to a large team of concerned dolphin lovers who are willing to go down to the docks, wherever those dolphins live and openly decommission those gill nets and trawl nets. Keep it friendly, but let's kick those dolphin-killing nets to touch! 

Commercial fishing Ross Sea

Like thousands of others I am too concerned about the enviornment especially the Ross Sea fishing and the damage it is doing to the sea life. Our Whales are either being killed by the Japanese, Norweigans and now the Koreans, not to mention who else. The mammals as I mentioned depend on the fish to survive. There has to be drastic changes made to save the Ross sea. The fishermen and the companies they are working for are completely IGNORANT.