Australia will continue its push for marine protected areas in East Antarctica at the 35th annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) which starts in Hobart today.

Other priorities for the 10-day meeting include ensuring the sustainable and effective management of the krill fishery and encouraging the continued deterrence of illegal, unreported fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean.

Ms Gillian Slocum will lead Australia’s delegation as Commissioner this year. Ms Slocum, who was the Deputy Commissioner last year, has been attending CCAMLR meetings since 2001.

Alongside the European Union and its Member States, Australia first submitted a proposal for marine protected areas (MPAs) in East Antarctic in 2012 and remains deeply committed to their establishment.

“It’s important that we have a system of reference areas to help us monitor and understand the effects of fishing and also monitor the effects of climate change on the Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems and the proposed MPAs offer this,” Ms Slocum said.

“While agreement on some proposals can take many years to achieve, the consensus nature of the organisation means that once a proposal is agreed, it has the full support of all nations.”

New Zealand and the United States also continue to advocate for an MPA in the Ross Sea region.

Ensuring the effective and sustainable management of krill fishery remains a priority for Australia, as highlighted in the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan released by the Australian Government earlier this year.

“Krill are the keystone species of the Antarctic ecosystem and staple diet of many animals, including seals, whales, fish, penguins and flying seabirds,” Ms Slocum said.

“Scientists at the Australian Antarctic Division undertake world-leading research on krill development on both wild and captive bred krill and inform many of the Commission’s management decisions.

“Current harvests are well below CCAMLR’s total allowable catch, but demands on the fishery are expanding as krill is recognised for its value as fish meal and in medical products and supplements.”

Australia also supports the continued deterrence of illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“IUU fishing undermines the CAMLR Convention and we encourage Members to continue to take strong and decisive action against those involved in IUU fishing.”