Reflections on CCAMLR 2018

The 37th meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources has just concluded, Oceanites once again participating as an officially invited, international expert observer.

On larger matters before countries that are members of this Commission, I sadly report that none of the three proposed marine protected areas (MPAs) — East Antarctica, Weddell Sea, Antarctic Peninsula —were adopted, despite vigorous support around the table, except from China and Russia. Also very discouraging, from the vantage of Oceanites’ promoting awareness of climate change, China and Russia blocked a proposal for requiring climate change implications statements in any and all working papers brought before the Commission. The depressing irony is that all of this played out simultaneously with news of further collapse of the Pine Island glacier in west Antarctica, producing an iceberg five times the size of Manhattan.

From the vantage of Oceanites’ championing science-based conservation, my colleague Grant Humphries and I had multiple discussions with fellow penguin scientists, statistical experts, and diplomats from Argentina, Belgium, Norway, the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Chile, all aimed at increasing the flow of penguin population data into our continent-wide MAPPPD database. It is gratifying that MAPPPD is increasingly being used by other Antarctic researchers and, over the past year, was cited in 13 peer-reviewed scientific publications.

In addition, we continued fruitful discussions with members of the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting companies (ARK), both in regard to their fishing data assisting Oceanites’ analysis of climate change impacts and Oceanites assisting ARK in its voluntary efforts to implement fishing buffer zones in the vicinity of penguin breeding colonies.

If a major concern regarding penguin conservation is potential impacts from fishing, I’d argue that using our data to encourage ongoing, voluntary efforts by this particular stakeholder will, in the long run, prove enormously effective absent other officially adopted measures. The tourism industry, for example, already does a considerable amount of self-regulation and prospects for the krill fishing industry being similarly pro-active are encouraging. Again, what drives this forward is our putting data and scientific analyses on the table that truly force the system forward.

All in all, however, reality bites. Our good work marches onward and upward. Others’ good work continues. But, end of the day, it’s frustrating, if not galling and sobering, that the wiles and vagaries of international power politics diminish the scientific facts before us, and doom conservation measures that should flow therefrom.

. . . Ron Naveen