Ross Sea: Antarctic Marine Protection Comes into force on 1 December 2017

ECO Vice-Chair and long-time Antarctic campaigner Cath Wallace previews the new protections for the Antarctic which come into force this Friday, 1st December:C Wallace

 

The Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA) comes into force on 1 December.  The Ross Sea MPA will give varying measures of protection to an area of over 1.55 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea in the Southern Ocean which surrounds Antarctica.  The MPA includes the Ross ice shelf which would increase the MPA to nearly 2 million square kilometres.

This major gain of marine protection in the Southern Ocean was agreed at the October 2016 Antarctic marine convention (CCAMLR) meeting.  It reflects the combined efforts of New Zealand and the United States and many supporters globally.

The proposal for a series of 19 marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean was originally developed and campaigned for by the Antarctic and Southern Oceans Coalition (ASOC) with the Antarctic Oceans Alliance.  ECO is a long-term member of both organisations.  These introduced the idea of protection of the whole of the Ross Sea, drawing on science by a scientific group led by Halpern that showed it to be the most intact ocean ecosystem left globally.

The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, (CCAMLR) embarked over 10 years ago on a process to establish a network of representative marine protected areas.  This network has so far only got two MPAs including the Ross Sea.

The Ross Sea MPA is large, though not as big as proposed by ASOC because of pressure from fishing interests and governments that did not want to protect the whole area.

Of the area protected over 1.12 million square kilometres will be fully protected from commercial fishing with the remaining protected area is designated as special research zone (SRZ).  Some areas outside the MPA are open to commercial toothfish fishing, including some that were previously not open for this purpose.

AOA01317 Antartic Report_map Ross Sea MPA

It is disappointing that so-called commercial “research fishing” has been allowed in the Special Research Zone and that the northern tooth fish spawning banks and the eastern areas of the Ross Sea are not better protected.

Another disappointment is that the new MPA expire in 35 years rather than being made permanent. Let’s hope future generations ensure that CCAMLR will recognize the value of protecting this area and will renew it in 35 years.

The Ross Sea is a special place

The Ross Sea was identified by a major international scientific study as the least modified marine ecosystem on earth. It is clearly the most important to protect.  The area includes habitat for penguins and other seabirds, killer whales, seals, many kinds of fish but particularly toothfish, and the fantastic corals, starfish, krill and bivalves, and other astonishing sea creatures that live in the Ross Sea.  The MPA will allow a great chance of surviving and functioning as an intact ecosystem with this decision.

The Ross Sea is home to 38% of the world’s Adélie penguins, 26% of Emperor penguins, more than 30% of Antarctic petrels, 6% of Antarctic minke whales, and perhaps more than 30% of “Ross Sea” type killer whales. Moreover, it has the richest diversity of fishes in the high latitude Southern Ocean, including at least seven species found nowhere else.

It is time to celebrate the combined efforts of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, and their member organisations and supporters, and the scientists, officials, politicians and diplomats for achieving a major conservation success with protection or safeguarding chunks of the Ross Sea in Antarctica.

Special acknowledgement to former Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, New Zealand’s diplomatic team led by Jillian Dempster, and the science teams.

An essential ingredient was sustained public pressure and the tenacious work of the non-governmental organisations who launched the idea, including ECO. There have been years of effort and careful diplomacy by New Zealand and the USA to achieve the result.

Particular tributes are due to movie maker, Peter Young, of Fisheye Films, who made the Last Ocean movie which raised awareness immensely.  This result is a joint effort.

ECO’s Barry Weeber was at the CCAMLR meeting that achieved this result, and he has worked for years for this result as have many others.

This year CCAMLR Scientific Committee agreed to a substantial research and monitoring plan for the MPA.  This plan was developed through joint effort of New Zealand, US and Italian scientists.

Further proposals

Progress on additional MPAs have been very slow.  Frustratingly, the proposal from Australia and the EU for protection of East Antarctic areas again failed to gain consensus at this years CCAMLR meeting. ECO hopes that careful diplomancy will see the proposal agreed at next year’s meeting.

Further proposals are being developed.  Active efforts are being undertaken in two areas -, the German efforts in the Weddell Sea, and by Argentina and Chile in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Greenpeace has launched a campaign to help support further Antarctic MPAs, in particular in the Weddell Sea and around the Antarctic Peninsula.  Greenpeace is undertaking an expedition to the peninsula this summer which will include the use of a two-person submarine to help document these special areas.

Greenpeace was a key participant in the campaign to stop mining in Antarctic in the 1980s and early 1990s.  It operated a year-round base (World Park Base) at Cape Evans in the Ross Sea from 1987 to 1992.

 

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The Environmental Impact Of Cigarette Litter

Daisy Poe from Quitza draws our attention to the immense threat to our marine environment and air quality caused by smoking and discarded butts.

Quitza is a non profit where users from all over the world support each other while quitting smoking using Quitza’s custom made social support network. Quitza combines the social support with real time progress tracking technologies where users earn awards when they reach milestones throughout their quit. These are then shared with the community for further support.

 

According to the WHO there are currently over 1 billion smokers globally.

Six million of those smokers will die each year from a smoking related illness.

The negative consequences of smoking range far from just the health effects on the individual. The environmental impact caused by improper disposal of cigarette butts is as large as it is concerning.

Each year 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are discarded improperly around the world. They are the single most littered item in existence, ever.

It is in our towns and cities that the vast majority of cigarette ends are discarded improperly. With the help of wind and rain they are often blown or washed into our waterways. They then either remain in our lakes and rivers, make their way to the ocean, or get washed up in our natural spaces.

While in our waterways cigarette butts can often be mistaken for food by aquatic life. If a human adult ingests a cigarette butt they are likely to have some mild health consequences such as vomiting and a upset stomach. Imagine the pain and suffering ingesting a cigarette butt would cause to an animal the size of a fish. (Symptoms include vomiting, respiratory failure, and often death.)

If the cigarette butt gets washed out of our waterways onto a riverbank or onto the beach, non marine life faces the same issue. Land animals will also mistake it for food, ingest it, and receive the same potentially lethal consequences as aquatic life.

To make matters worse, (contrary to popular belief) cigarette butts are not biodegradable. They can take up to 25 years to fully degrade. While they do so they are releasing over 4000 toxins into the soil or water that surrounds them

It would be tempting to discount this issue due to the small size of a cigarette butt. However a study conducted by SDSU found that a single cigarette butt placed in a 1 litre tank of water killed half the fish in the tank.

When we remember our initial statistic of 4.3 trillion improperly discarded cigarettes butts each year, the cause for concern arising from these toxic chemicals entering our ecosystem becomes apparent.

So what can we do to reduce the amount of harm caused to our environment by cigarette litter?

 

Various research organizations and public health bodies around the world have proposed a variety of solutions to this issue. However one main common solution to the issue is commonly agreed upon.

 

Many people are simply unaware of just how large the problem of improperly disposed cigarette litter is. They are unaware of how harmful it is to the environment.

 

Through education and awareness campaigns it is possible to reduce the amount of cigarette litter that is improperly disposed of, reducing the scale of the problem.

 

It’s time to start treating cigarette butts like the toxic waste they actually are.

Holding environmental degradation at bay

ECO intern and HECUA student Emily Donaldson takes a close look at the work being done by the Bay of Islands Maritime Park group.

The Bay of Islands Maritime Park, an ECO member group in Northland, was one of the respondents to a recent survey undertaken by ECO of the conservation and restoration work being undertaken by the volunteer sector in New Zealand. Bay of Islands Maritime Park is at the forefront of conservation efforts for marine environments.

The Bay of Islands Maritime Park group was established in May, 2006. Its incorporation in 2007 allowed for active working groups to apply for project funding, while bringing together small community groups in the region to develop an integrated approach to target the pressing issues facing the Bay of Islands ecosystems. Their collective mission seeks social, ecological, and economic sustainability founded on devoted community members tackling water pollution, excessive sedimentation and silt, the decline of fish populations, and other anthropogenic problems. The tangata whenua, commercial users, recreational users, tourism sector, ratepayer groups, and environmental and government sector organizations and associations collaborate to run projects and initiatives including Fish Forever, Living Waters: Bay of Islands – Wai Ora, Ocean Survey 20/20, the Seagrass Restoration Project, and marine biodiversity education for schools.

The survey response indicated that work is conducted by two different groups specifically for the islands: (1) Establishing a network of marine reserves in the Bay of Islands and (2) riparian planting and restoration at two different sites. General conservation work in 2014 included planting, weeding, marine reserve campaigning, and pest control at an expense of approximately $77,000. Some 4,000 volunteer and work hours were contributed to accomplishing these tasks in 2014. Tangibly beneficial projects comprised: restoring a wetland in Tangatapu, reducing sedimentation via riparian planting of the Kerikeri River, and working towards the establishment of a marine reserve.

Ecosystem services, highlighted by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, contribute to the wellbeing of humans in many ways. Broken up into four categories, the ecosystem services of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone provides at least 12 regulatory services, 5 provisioning services, and 9 non-consumptive services, indicative of the significance of restoring and preserving the marine environment in the Bay of Islands. Based on global estimates, marine ecosystems may provide about two-thirds of the total value of services provided by New Zealand ecosystems annually. With coastal and terrestrial ecosystems closely linked, conservation on all fronts is imperative. Thankfully, the diligent community work fostered by this ECO member group is boosting services like the denitrification of water, food support and provisioning, and preservation of Maori traditions.

To learn more about New Zealand’s marine ecosystem services, click below:

http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/77045/1_17_MacDiarmid.pdf

If you want to find out more about The Bay of Islands Maritime Park, visit these websites:

http://doc.govt.nz/get-involved/volunteer/groups/northland/bay-of-islands-maritime-park-inc/

http://fishforever.org.nz/who-are-we/boi-maritime-park-inc.html

MPI reviews New Zealand fisheries – are we really world-leading?

Cath Wallace reviews the Ministry of Primary Industries fisheries review, currently under way  C Wallace

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) is embarking on a significant review of New Zealand fisheries management.    In many ways a review is welcome, but ECO has difficulty both with some of the matters that have been ruled out of scope and some of the assertions that New Zealand fisheries management sustainability is not to be questioned.

Among the questions that ECO asked is whether New Zealand’s system of fisheries management really is world-leading and sustainable as the Ministry promotes.

Fisheries law in New Zealand still does not include an active precautionary approach.  Nor does it have an Ecosystem-Based management approach, the now widely accepted framework for fisheries management elsewhere.

Fisheries  in New Zealand are still impacting on many non-target species and marine communities. This includes  threatened endemic species – including Maui and Hector’s dolphins, many albatross and petrel species, and NZ sea lions.

Bottom fishing is still impacting on benthic biodiversity and we are still in the early days of implementing the current National Plans of Action on Seabirds and Sharks.  One of the major flaws of the fisheries Quota Management System is that there is little attention paid to the environmental impacts of fishing (except on the charismatic megafauna) and there are few measures in place to review or incentivise fishing methods and their imapcts.  For the most part, companies hold fisheries quota and there is rarely  attention to the methods by which it is caught and their impacts on ecosystems and invertebrates and their communities and habitats.

MPI’s director of sector policy, Jarred Mair says there will be plenty of opportunity for people to have their say throughout this process. “The first phase of the review, beginning now, is about gathering information from stakeholders and the public about what is working and what might be priorities for change.”

“We’ll then summarise what we’ve heard and bring that back for feedback in early 2016. If it is decided that change is needed, MPI will develop proposals and there will be another opportunity to have your say”.

MPI says that it won’t be looking to make changes to core elements of the quota management system. Similarly, the existing rights and interests of recreational, customary and commercial fishers, as well as Treaty settlements, are not in scope.

MPI is also reviewing cost recovery provisions in the Fisheries Act 1996. These provisions apply to fisheries research and management, and also to impacts on protected species under conservation legislation.  The provisions are in need of reform.

The current provisions have been used to restrict and limit fisheries research which is less than half of what it was, in real terms, over 20 years ago.  For most of the stocks in the quota management system, little is known about sustainable yields.  Perversely, the smaller the stock, the less the industry wants to spend on research.  Decisions can be made on information that is many years old.   Ecosystem impacts information is not routinely collected.

This could be an opportunity to achieve ecosystem-based management, proper environmental impact assessments, the precautionary principle and catch limits for the ecosystem rather than for the fishing industry.  We might even get recognition of the in-situ values of fish in the sea – performing their ecosystem functions and providing other non-market values.

It is also likely that the fishing industry will want to gain even more control over the specification, design and conduct of fisheries research, and that they will want to privatise fisheries management.  The Review includes a goal of gaining “social licence” for fishing – which could be code for legitimising business as usual.