Illegal Antarctic Fishing Worries New Zealand

  • Simon Upton
Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

``New Zealand is very concerned about unregulated and illegal fishing in Antarctic waters'', said the Hon Simon Upton, Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

He was reacting to reports from South Africa of large scale illegal fishing of Antarctic toothfish in waters south of South Africa. More than forty vessels are reported as having caught over 30,000 tonnes of the high-value toothfish. Fishing in these waters is subject to regulation by the Hobart-based Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

``Unregulated fishing on this scale damages the fragile Antarctic eco-system. It challenges the effectiveness of CCAMLR. It may pose a threat to the waters south of New Zealand, if reports that this fishing is continuing to spread westwards into French and Australian Antarctic waters are borne out'', the Minister added.

``New Zealand will work closely with its CCAMLR partners to meet this serious challenge to the Convention. We will also make sure that the illegal fishing does not spread into the Ross Sea''.

``Options to prevent illegal fishing include the use of satellite-based vessel monitoring systems which track the progress of a vessel at sea. The placement of international observers on-board fishing vessels is also effective'', Mr Upton added.

``This year CCAMLR has authorised New Zealand to fish for toothfish in the Ross Sea for the first time'', Mr Upton continued. ``The new fishery is to take place shortly. It will be carried out under the strict limitations set by CCAMLR and under New Zealand's national measures to ensure that the activity is effectively managed and regulated ''.

``In addition to these regulations, the venture will also be subject to the requirements of the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. This means that companies wishing to fish in the Ross Sea will need to complete a satisfactory assessment report for me on the activity's potential impact on the Antarctic environment before it can proceed'', the Minister concluded.


CCAMLR has approved a fishery for toothfish by New Zealand vessels in the Ross Sea in the period from 15 February to 31 August 1997. A catch limit of 3,960 tonnes has been set for the region.