Documentary rekindles Antarctic fishery controversy

The documentary ‘The Last Ocean’ criticises the Antarctic toothfish fishery in the Ross Sea. (Photo: StockFile/FIS)


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Monday, July 30, 2012, 23:40 (GMT + 9)

New Zealand’s fishing activities in the Antarctic’s Ross Sea are responsible and sustainable, claimed the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council (NZSIC). The comment comes in anticipation of the release of a documentary on the subject by NZ filmmaker Peter Young.

“The Last Ocean” has been refused the opportunity to be seen before it debuts, but it is listed in the “activist” and “environmental” categories at the upcoming New Zealand International Film Festival and criticises the Antarctic toothfish fishery which operates in the Ross Sea.

“We need to ask ourselves what is the true value of the Ross Sea and should we be leaving one last untouched and undamaged piece of ocean for the next generation?” Young asked.

Stuart Prior, who helped the country negotiate an Antarctic fishing agreement with other nations to address the threat of unregulated fishing in the Ross Sea, is quoted in the film saying there is evidence proving that fishing in the area is an environmental threat and should be stopped, Voxy reports.

“We are concerned as we consider its intent will be to generate public outrage in the absence of the full picture. We want to make sure people are able to get a balanced view,” said Peter Bodeker, chief executive of NZSIC.

He asserted that NZSIC supports an active conservation policy in the Ross Sea and that large areas are already closed to fishing. Managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), there are very conservative catch limits and specific rules for exploratory fisheries such as the Ross Sea toothfish fishery.

In 2011, New Zealand’s toothfish catch was 26 per cent of the total catch limit set by CCAMLR, and since 2006 only once has it exceeded 40 per cent of this catch limit.

Bodeker said the annual total toothfish harvest by CCAMLR members was less than three per cent of the total biomass of toothfish in the Ross Sea from last year.

Further, New Zealand operates strictly within the guidelines of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which calls New Zealand’s approach “well managed,” according to NZSIC.

“It is understood that this film, together with a number of environmental groups, calls for the total closure of the Ross Sea to all fishing activity,” he stated. “We believe this is a total over-reaction and unnecessary.”

“We can only hope that the public is able to manage the feelings of guilt this type of campaign is designed to engender and to trust the combined efforts of international and government institutions which are doing a good job protecting the Antarctic environment,” he added.

By Natalia Real

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