Growing calls to protect Ross Sea

  • 29/07/2012

By Michael Morrah

New Zealand is unlikely to stop fishing for toothfish in the Ross Sea, despite growing calls to protect what's considered the last pristine ocean on Earth.

A soon-to-be released documentary says New Zealand should pull out of the area, but the New Zealand Government has other ideas.

The toothfish and its species is worth around $26 million to New Zealand every year.

We first started fishing for it in the Ross Sea in 1996. Conservationists say it's time to pull out.

“There is no pristine ocean left on planet Earth,” says documentary maker Peter Young. “But this is the closest thing we have to it.”

Peter Young has been working on his documentary The Last Ocean for the past six years.

It will premiere at the New Zealand International Film Festival this Wednesday.

“For the scientists it's important because it's what they call a living laboratory,” says Mr Young. “It's a place where they can see eco-systems functioning how they used to before humans came along and started interfering with the natural balance.”

The Southern Ocean fishery is regulated by a committee made up of 26 countries.

A meeting in October will decide its future.

Both New Zealand and the United States will propose at that meeting that large parts of the Ross Sea be protected.     

But a group of NGOs known as the Antarctic Ocean Alliance want almost the entire area made a marine reserve.

“Certainly it's a huge ambitious ask, but unless countries are willing to forgo their own vested domestic interests, and I think New Zealand with a vested interest in the fishery there must lead by example,” says Greenpeace campaigner Karli Thomas.

But New Zealand boats are unlikely to pull out. 

“Our overall interest in that fishery is $20 million to $30 million a year,” says Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully. “I've seen conflicting views. The mainstream view I have seen is that this is still a healthy fishery.”

“The Government wants its cake and it wants to eat it too,” says Mr Young. “It just doesn't work when you get down to your last ocean.”

It is the last ocean that's home to much more than just toothfish, and that conservationists say is at risk unless bold action is taken.

A Government expert will represent New Zealand at October's meeting in Hobart, Australia.

But even getting partial protection may be tough. Any decision on the future of the Southern Ocean fishery requires consensus from all 26 countries.

3 News

source: newshub archive