4P – Overfishing & Antarctic ecosystem

Supporting article P: New fish harvesting methods threatening the ‘building blocks’ of the Antartic Ecosystem


by John Fowler (Mercopress) Stanley

Deputy Governor of the Falkland Islands, Miss Harriet Hall, returned to Stanley last week after attending the annual conference of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, Tasmania.
CCAMLR has twenty-four member states and its activities, which include setting scientifically arrived at quotas for acceptable catch levels of fish, cover all the area of ocean covered by the Antarctic current, including South Georgia, of which Miss Hall is the Director of Fisheries.

Reporting on her visit through the medium of the Falkland Islands Radio Station, Miss Hall said that one of the principle purposes of the meeting, which follows a scientific congress, had been to set the quotas for tooth fish and ice fish for the coming year.
Of particular concern to CCAMLR at the moment was the need for a better scientific understanding of krill, said Miss Hall. Krill, a minute organism similar to shrimps or prawns is the main food of many Antarctic species including some of the great whales and as such, said Miss Hall, can be regarded as the “basic building block” of the whole Antarctic eco-system.

New technology had led to more efficient methods of fishing and to new ways of processing krill for an expanding variety of uses. This was raising concern among CCAMLR members and there were calls for new regulation to prevent the over-fishing of this resource.

Increasing the knowledge of all fish stocks in the Antarctic region called for accurate recording and reporting of catches, said Miss Hall. This clearly was not helped by illegal fishing activities. For that reason CCAMLR were appealing to non-member states to prevent their flagged vessels from fishing there.

While the South Georgia fishery zone was well policed, said Miss Hall, CCAMLR were aware of considerable illegal fishing going on in the Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic waters, in some cases by vessels, which were well-known.

Miss Hall said that one way to combat illegal fishing, especially for the valuable tooth fish, was through increasing consumer awareness that illegal fishing threatens the continued existence of certain species. Schemes such as the chain of identity run by the Marine Stewardship Council would enable consumers to know that the fish they were buying came from a legitimate source, where conservation of stocks was a priority.