CCAMLR - A Tooth-less Convention?

  • Simon Upton
Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

"New Zealand is not satisfied with the response of CCAMLR to the problem of illegal and unregulated fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean", Associate Foreign Minister Simon Upton said today.

Mr Upton was commenting on the outcome of the recent meeting of the parties to the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources in Hobart.

"New Zealand is gravely concerned that companies and citizens from within CCAMLR's membership are behind nearly all the illegal and unregulated toothfish fishing. There is strong evidence that northern hemisphere corporates are actively exploiting loopholes in the Convention, particularly through the use of flags of convenience, in their pursuit of quick profits from toothfish.

Mr Upton said, "In so doing, they are seriously damaging Antarctic wildlife, most worryingly birds such as albatrosses and petrels. They are also corroding the Antarctic Treaty System which is based on responsible stewardship of the Antarctic. New Zealand is particularly worried by the possibility that these modern day pirates will extend into the Ross Sea.

"We will be doing everything we can to expose their activities. We have put CCAMLR parties on notice that we will hold them accountable for any activities by their companies and nationals which threaten to undermine CCAMLR. We will also be working with our CCAMLR friends and neighbours to identify practical approaches to halting the toothfish plunder and hitting those involved where it hurts: in their pockets.

"We share Australia's disappointment at the lack of progress at CCAMLR XVII and its concern about the health of the Convention. The possibility of adding a Ministerial dimension to the work of CCAMLR is one that we shall be seriously considering. We will not sit on our hands and let CCAMLR become a tooth-less Convention," Mr Upton concluded.

Background Information

CCAMLR met in Hobart from 26 October-6 November. Information tabled at the Commission suggested that approximately 40-50 longliners without permits, about a quarter of which were flagged to CCAMLR parties, were observed fishing for toothfish or landing toothfish product in 1997/98. The unregulated fishery had moved eastwards from South Africa's Prince Edward/Marion Islands area, to the French Kerguelen/Crozet Islands and Australia's Heard and McDonald Islands. The overall tonnage of toothfish traded in 1997/98 was about 60,000 tonnes. The unreported catch that we know about for 1997/98 was 22,000 tonnes, double that reported from CCAMLR-regulated fisheries. It is unclear where the rest of the 60,000 tonnes is coming from, but there is a suspicion that much of it is coming from CCAMLR's region.

The unreported catch compares with 38,000-43,000 tonnes estimated for 1996/97. The decline in estimated illegal and unreported catch was considered to have several contributing factors, including declining catch rates across the Indian Ocean and action taken by various countries against illegal and unreported fishing.

The Commission had before it estimates that the potential seabird bycatch within the Convention area, principally from illegal and unregulated toothfish fishing, in the Indian Ocean sector alone was between 50,000 and 89,000 birds. This potentially comprised 31,000 to 56,000 white-chinned petrels, 11,000 to 20,000 albatrosses and 2,000 to 4,000 giant petrels. The scientific assessment was that these levels of mortality would be unsustainable for the populations of these species breeding with the Convention area in the south Indian Ocean.

The Commission also noted that information on seabird bycatch outside the Convention area, especially information from New Zealand and Australia, continued to indicate that substantial bycatch occurs of species and populations breeding within the Convention area.