This year marks a turning point for the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) beginning in Hobart (Monday 24 October), the Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell, said today.

Senator Campbell said this year marked 25 years of CCAMLR and for the first time it had a permanent home after relocating to a new Hobart premises last month. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer will be officially opening the premises on Monday.

CCAMLR sits beside the Antarctic Treaty as part of the Antarctic Treaty System, and its work also complements the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.

Senator Campbell said Australia would be launching a landmark report on the future of CCAMLR developed at a symposium in Valdivia, Chile in April this year.

“This year is the beginning of an exciting new era for CCAMLR,” he said.

“As a co-host with Chile, Australia played a lead role in the symposium and has produced the report that will be presented at CCAMLR during the course of this meeting.

“The symposium provided an out-of-session opportunity for open and frank discussion about the future direction of this important international agreement.”

The Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald, said Australia had made positive inroads to conservation of the Southern Ocean ecosystem, especially for toothfish and albatrosses.

“Australia’s patrol efforts are paying dividends. The level of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing around Heard Island has been reduced. But there is more to be done,” he said.

“Australia has shown that it is not prepared to sit back and allow these criminals to get away with plundering fish stocks at their whim and we will be relentless in our hard line against them.

“Other countries are similarly interested in seeing the full force of the law delivered to those who continue to flout it. As an international agreement, CCAMLR allows us to work with other countries to address this problem.”

Senator Campbell said an important aid in reaching that goal was agreement on dealing with vessels flagged to non-CCAMLR parties that conduct unregulated fishing in the CCAMLR area.

“This activity seriously undermines CCAMLR conservation measures. Not only does it have a damaging impact on fish stocks but scientists estimate that thousands of seabirds such as albatrosses and petrels die each year after becoming entangled on longlines set by unregulated vessels,” he said.

The Australian delegation at CCAMLR is comprised of representatives of the Australian Antarctic Division, Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, conservation groups and the fishing industry who provide scientific and policy advice. CCAMLR ends on 4 November.