University of Tasmania
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CCAMLR in a changing world

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Version 2 2024-05-01, 05:29
Version 1 2023-05-27, 19:05
posted on 2024-05-01, 05:29 authored by Goldsworthy, LD

The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CAMLR Convention) was negotiated between 1978 and 1980 and entered into force in 1982. It was developed in response to concerns about the impact of an unregulated finfish fishery and growing commercial interest in krill on the Southern Ocean marine ecosystem. At the time little was known about the impact of krill harvesting, particularly on the recovery of the severely depleted whale population. In a world first, precautionary and ecosystem-based principles were embedded in the objective of the CAMLR Convention, which prioritises the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. The objective specifies that rational use is permitted within this conservation mandate and provides rules for how fishing and associated activities may be conducted sustainably.

The CAMLR Convention establishes a Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), with Members comprising both fishing and scientific research states (plus the European Union). CCAMLR is responsible for delivering the Convention's objective through the adoption of consensus-based, legally binding Conservation Measures based on the 'best scientific evidence available'. In addition to fisheries management, the Convention articulates that such measures include the designation of protected species and areas for scientific study, conservation and protection.

Despite inheriting several severely depleted stocks and an initial reluctance by some Members to provide the data necessary for effective ecosystem-based management of active fisheries under the conditions required by the Convention, CCAMLR soon became regarded as a world leader in translating precautionary and ecosystem-based principles to its policy decisions, particularly for those related to fisheries management.

In recent years, however, differences of view between Members have strengthened around how to interpret and implement the Convention's objective, coalescing around the relative prioritisation afforded to conservation goals against fishing rights and access. This thesis assesses the challenges arising from these diverging views on the operations and decisions of CCAMLR and considers their implications in the current geopolitically dynamic and climate-changing world.

The application of precautionary approaches and best scientific information available, the process for facilitating mutually acceptable agreements under CCAMLR's consensus decision-making requirement, and the range and number of decisions agreed are examined for indications of influence from these differing views. CCAMLR's responses to impacts associated with the rapidly changing environment in the region are also examined. This work then informs a discussion of a range of possible futures for CCAMLR, including: transition to a traditional regional fisheries management organisation; the abandonment of the agreement; reconfirmation as a conservation regime that allows fishing where it meets conservation goals; and reframing to a global refuge for biodiversity, climate resilience, peace and science.

The thesis concludes that the increasingly overt conflicting views on the interpretation of the CAMLR Convention objective and mounting demands for a 'balance' between conservation goals and access for rational use has intensified tensions within CCAMLR and created a 'tipping point' for the future of the Southern Ocean - managed for fishing or recognised and protected for its conservation values?



Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies

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  • Unpublished

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Copyright 2022 the author

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