Dear John…. please put your thinking cap on

On Saturday (tomorrow) New Zealand Prime Minister John Key will meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Pacific Forum to discuss a joint proposal for marine protection in the Ross Sea.

Mr Key is an astute businessman and as he heads into these talks I hope he remembers a basic business principal –  point of difference  because the Ross Sea has a major one. To date, unlike every other ocean ecosystem on Earth it has escaped significant human impact – the Ross Sea is the most pristine marine ecosystem on Earth. (Halpern et al 2008)

photo John Weller

In wikipedia it says “The key points of difference of a company (insert the Ross Sea here) are synonymous with its unique selling proposition (USP) and although not interchangeable,  are critical in defining its competitive advantage and branding strategy.”

If the Ross Sea was a brand, The Last Ocean says it all. So any entrepreneur worth his or her weight would surely ask ‘why are we not be capitlising on that? New Zealand certainly hasn’t. Establishing the toothfish fishery was based on the traditional exploitative approach. There have been no studies (that I know of) on the value that tourism in the Ross Sea has or could bring to New Zealand, so lets just throw another idea into the mix.

photo John Weller

Instead of fishing in the Ross Sea  –  what if we were to sell it as the most pristine marine ecosystem on Earth – for the world to visit, to study, to celebrate and share. If we allowed nations to responsibly profit from that, whether it be science, research or tourism – the buy in, I’m sure would be huge. As general public from all over the world (including other fishing nations like South Korea and Russia) experience the Ross Sea and are touched and moved – they will understand why we want to protect these last places. As suggested by Stuart Prior, New Zealand could establish a world leading Antarctic centre in Christchurch, the gateway to Ross Sea. We could become a world leader – not in fishery management but in science, conservation and education.

And if we did refrain from exploitation, as the world gets busier and crazier – the Last Ocean will become more and more valuable. The asset grows in stature and value.

Photo John Weller

A not-so-smart business person will miss that opportunity and see the Ross Sea primarily as a place teeming with fish, easily caught and sent to the far-off  market’s. They will make profit on the day and they may make profit for a few years to come – but the daily profit diminishes the real value of the Ross Sea. The capital that has taking all preceeding history to build erodes away.

Humanity is noted for knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. So, Mr Key, when it comes time to deciding what we should do in the Ross Sea I hope you think of the point of difference, because the world is full of second hand fishing grounds.

This clip from The Last Ocean Documentary highlights the Ross Sea’s point of difference. If you like this blog, please share, thanks, Peter Y.


One thought on “Dear John…. please put your thinking cap on

  1. The Ross Sea fishery has not been well thought out economically. Other than the short term ‘benefits’ attainable now, as in mining for gold, as the fish get smaller — this is a fact, this is happening and is the goal of the current fishery management plan — the cost of extraction will rise as increasingly more time will be required to extract the same tonnage of ore, errr fish. Cost of fuel and crew, as well as insurance, will be increasing, too. Moreover, the fishing season is getting shorter owing to climate change: sea ice is beginning to form sooner and lasting longer leaving a shorter and shorter ‘window’ in which to fish. More high-seas rescues and tragedies are in the future. On the other hand, leaving the Ross Sea as a “special place” will have sustainable returns forever, both in science and tourism potential and just knowing that this last part of Eden will continue to exist.

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