Friday, November 7, 2008

CCAMLR Meeting and the Ross Sea

The 27th meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) concludes today in Hobart, Australia. ASOC attends CCAMLR meetings as an observer, and we presented eight papers on issues related to the Southern Ocean fisheries at this meeting.

One of our papers concerns the Ross Sea, currently among the world's most pristine ocean areas. The Ross Sea has avoided thus far many of the problems seen in the rest of the world because of its remoteness and its harsh weather conditions. ASOC believes that for the following reasons, CCAMLR should make the Ross Sea part of a group of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean.

-The fish populations in the Ross Sea are still mostly intact. While many fish stocks around the world and in the Southern Ocean have been depleted, those in the Ross Sea have not. A Ross Sea MPA could provide a much-needed refuge.

-The Ross Sea area is home to significant seal, whale, and penguin populations. A Ross Sea MPA would preserve their habitat and the habitat of their food sources.

-Some of the scientific experiments taking place in the Ross Sea are longstanding and extremely important. The region is the site of many experiments, and science benefits from being able to study this relatively pristine environment.

Right now, in the U.S., the Bush administration (or at least the President and the First Lady) has been working to declare areas of the Mariana Trench protected from commercial exploitation. These efforts have not come without criticism, primarily on economic grounds. Declaring the Ross Sea an MPA would likely raise similar concern. But as Jane Lubchenco notes in this Washington Post article, the existence of MPAs can help fish populations outside the reserve as well. In the long run, both marine life and humans benefit from the preservation of the oceans.

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