CCAMLR: Antarctic Waters Conference tackles the future for marine species

8 November 2003

In the final hours of the two weeks of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) negotiations, a trial of the Centralised Vessel Monitoring Scheme has been agreed to. This is a critical strategy in the fight to preserve the toothfish.

The efforts by the Australian delegation to move along their proposal to overcome illegal fishing vessels tampering with their location identifying equipment, have delivered the outcome, when a consensus could not be reached by all 24 member nations who needed to give the green light to the full introduction of the scheme next year.

Australia, the United States and other countries to implement a trial for the Southern Ocean fisheries, with the data reported back to the Commission Secretariat in Hobart.

"The results of this trial should give the reluctant member nations the assurances they seek in relation to the confidentiality of the data when it is transmitted to the Secretariat", Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary for Environment and Heritage said.

Other measures to strengthen the fight against illegal fishers finally agreed to in CCAMLR includes an official list of fishing vessels known to be illegally fishing in the region. This measure will be of great benefit in identifying vessels more quickly, both on the water, and in port, when they land to offload their illegally caught cargo.

It was also agreed that a significantly improved Catch Documentation Scheme will move one step closer to an electronic mode with an expanded trial by a number of nations next year, Dr Stone said. It was felt by some member nations that the trial last season had been too limited to give sufficient feed back.

"In a time when interest in krill harvesting in Antarctic regions is once again on the increase, and there is unprecedented demand for licensed fishing for toothfish and other species, the importance of CCAMLR as an international forum of cooperation and commitment has never been greater", Dr Stone said.

"This Commission is unique in that it aims to preserve and sustain ecosystems, with their complex interdependencies in the rich Southern Ocean. The precautionary principle used to determine total allowable catches of any species, and their work to reduce by-catch make it a model institution", Dr Stone said.

"However, with the dependency on full consensus between the 24 nation members, there is always gong to be most robust debate, and often quite some difficulty in moving swiftly forward to achieve what Australia and a majority of other member States sees as the best strategy mix", Dr Stone said.

Dr Stone commended the work of the Australian Delegation, led by the Australian Antarctic Division, which had worked tirelessly to achieve the progress made at this year's Commission.