In TVNZ’s Q & A Programme on Sunday Labour MP Shane Jones said “the producer of the Last Ocean publicly stated that he can’t fault the science behind the NZ’s fishing industry presence in the Ross Sea – and that from his perspective this debate is not about that, it is about excluding from this area, a whole bunch of human activities… ”
WRONG on both counts Shane. Here are my views.
What I have said in the past is that this argument is not about how sustainable the fishery is – it’s about whether there should be a fishery there at all. In any other ocean, the management practise of the Ross Sea fishery would be commended BUT the Ross Sea is no ordinary ocean – it is the most pristine and intact marine ecosystem we have on Earth. A dead fish is a dead fish no matter how well it has been caught, and removing 50% of the adult toothfish is going to destroy the natural balance of the Ross Sea – the very thing that makes this place so unique. There are so few untouched areas of the world ocean – we should not be fishing these last areas.
The other point is that protecting the Ross Sea does NOT mean excluding human activity. It means finding more creative, long-term ways to benefit from the Ross Sea than the short term profits of a few fishing companies over the next few years. Read an earlier blog about the Ross Sea’s point of difference.
Tourism, science, research are just some of the alternatives. Take photos, create ambassadors and profit responsibly while maintaining the integrity of the intact ecosystem. That is how we will get international buy in for protecting the Ross Sea and in the long term that will earn far more than any fishery ever would.
In the same Q & A programme, Gareth Morgan said it would be great if there was no fishing in the Ross Sea, but he believes that will never happen, and by withdrawing NZ vessels the fishery will turn into a free for all and the Ross Sea will be stripped of toothfish after 5 years.
This doom and gloom crystal ball gazing is something we hear a lot of from proponents of the fishery (NZ Govt and fishing industry included). It should not be dictating the decisions about the future of the Ross Sea. Every nation fishing there does so under the principals of CCAMLR and the Antarctic Treaty System. If this is the well managed, highly regulated fishery that we are told it is, then surely the worst possible outcome from withdrawing NZ vessels is that other nations would continue to fish in this regulated manner while we build an international alliance and try to convince them of better things we could be doing in the Ross Sea.
Furthermore, if there is the political will to protect the Ross Sea, there wil be the political will to monitor and regulate it – this is all part and parcel of the CCAMLR regime, whether it is fishing, tourism or marine protection. The scaremongering is NO justification for New Zealand’s presence in this marginal and highly dangerous fishery. It’s a soft option and means we are making our decisions based on fear of what may happen instead of belief in what could happen. Inspirational leadership comes from the latter.
The challenges facing the governance of Antarctica today are not so different from the ones nations faced 50 years ago when, at the height of the cold war, they had the foresight to set aside the entire continent for peace and science. Full protection of the Ross Sea ecosystem is a natural extension of the Antarctic Treaty. It requires strong leadership and deserves a good fight – not throwing the towel in before the bell has even rung.