The Southern Ocean surrounds the continent of Antarctica and is clearly delimited by the Antarctic Convergence (or Polar Front), which is formed where cold Antarctic waters meet warmer waters to the north. The Antarctic Convergence acts as an effective biological barrier, and the Southern Ocean is therefore substantially a closed ecosystem.
The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (the Convention) came into force in 1982 and forms part of the Antarctic Treaty System. The Convention establishes the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
CCAMLR was established in 1982 with a primary objective of the conservation of Antarctic living resources, including fish, where conservation includes rational use of those resources. The following applies under the Convention:
- use of fisheries is to occur on a sustainable basis
- depleted fish stocks are to be restored to sustainable levels, and
- the ecological relationship between harvested, dependent and related populations of Antarctic marine living resources maintained.
The Australian Antarctic Division within the Department Environment is the lead agency for Australia’s involvement in CCAMLR.
Australia’s commercial interest in stocks managed by CCAMLR includes a substantial Patagonian Toothfish fishery within Australia’s exclusive economic zone around the Heard Island and McDonald Islands; a subantarctic island group which is an Australian external territory. Australia’s major priorities within CCAMLR is to seek stronger measures to effectively combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing, which is occurring in the CCAMLR Area of Competence, including in the Australian Fishing Zone around the Heard Island and McDonald Islands, as well as protecting our commercial fisheries interests.
Australia is committed to CCAMLR as an effective international mechanism for the conservation and rational use of Antarctic and Southern Ocean marine living resources. Australia continues to work with CCAMLR Members in the development of conservation and management measures to realise the objectives of the Commission. Fishing activities in the Australian Fishing Zone around Heard Island and McDonald Islands are required to be conducted in an ecologically sustainable manner and consistent with domestic and international obligations.
Australia continues to promote conservation and management measures based on the best available scientific advice, which are practical to implement, enforceable and promote ecologically sustainable management of the Antarctic marine ecosystem.
The impact of fishing on non-targeted species of fish and seabirds is also an issue, particularly in relation to the levels of by-catch of seabirds (such as species of albatross) by longline fishing boats. Australia continues to promote measures to reduce the incidental mortality of seabirds and to encourage CCAMLR to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation and management measures and other actions aimed at reducing seabird mortality.
For more information on CCAMLR, including its membership, see the CCAMLR website.