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Antarctica and the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS)

Until the Antarctic Treaty came into force in 1961, the International Whaling Commission (established under the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling) was the only international body endeavouring to manage the exploitation of Southern Ocean marine species. Formal negotiations among national governments with an interest in Antarctic affairs in the late 1950s culminated in the 1959 Washington Conference. The Antarctic Treaty was adopted at this Conference by the seven Antarctic territorial claimants (Australia, Argentina, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom) and five other states (Belgium, Japan, South Africa, United States, USSR).


While the Antarctic Treaty was initially designed to resolve tensions over sovereignty, the freedom of scientific research and the potential militarization of the continent during the Cold War, the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties (ATCPs) promptly directed their attention to protecting the Antarctic environment and developed the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). In 1964, the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora were adopted, which was followed in 1972 by the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS).


The ATCPs then adopted the 1988 Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA). However, the Convention was abandoned in 1991 when the need to develop more extensive Antarctic conservation measures became evident. The Protocol on Environmental Protection on the Antarctic Treaty (the Madrid Protocol) was negotiated in October 1991 and entered into force in January 1998 after being ratified by all of the current 26 ATCPs. According to Rothwell (1998:5), the ATS has "increasingly given greater attention to the protection of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean environment" particularly with regard to resource management.


The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)

Map of the CCAMLR region in the Southern Ocean (© CCAMLR 2003)

In response to fears of overfishing in the Southern Ocean, the 1982 Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was developed as a consequence of recommendations made at the 1975 and 1977 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings. The Convention was negotiated to ensure the protection of the marine ecosystem and it is innovative – being the first to take an ecosystem approach to fisheries management and a precautionary approach (Constable 2002).


The CCAMLR Convention Area extends to "(…) Antarctic marine living resources of the area south of 60º South latitude and to the Antarctic marine living resources of the area between that latitude and the Antarctic Convergence which form part of the marine ecosystem" (CCAMLR, Article I(1)). However, CCAMLR does not extend to all activities in the area and only applies to Antarctic marine living resources defined as "the populations of finfish, molluscs, crustaceans and all other species of living organisms, including birds found south of the Antarctic Convergence" (CCAMLR, Article I(2)).


The CCAMLR Area is divided into statistical areas, sub-areas and divisions, internationally agreed and recognised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations which is responsible for collecting and publishing world fishery statistics (CCAMLR 2002a). The three statistical areas are: Area 48 (Atlantic Ocean sector), Area 58 (Indian Ocean sector) and Area 88 (Pacific Ocean sector). The areas are divided to enable the reporting of fisheries data for individual stocks; and to make the imposition of management measures on a stock-by-stock basis possible.


CCAMLR is both a harvesting and conservation regime where harvesting is managed by setting conservation measures in accordance with the sustainable exploitation of resources (or ‘rational use’) and precautionary principles listed in CCAMLR, Article II. Article II(3) is unique among fisheries agreements requiring that conservation measures are based on consideration of fishery impacts on the entire ecosystem rather than each harvested species.

CCAMLR Commission


The CCAMLR Commission manages fishing activities. The Commission comprises 24 CCAMLR member governments (or State Parties) including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Namibia, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay. Seven states – Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Peru and Vanuatu – have ratified CCAMLR but have not joined the Commission. As CCAMLR is an open convention any national government is welcome to participate in the CCAMLR Commission providing it displays serious interest in the Southern Ocean – those engaged in research or harvesting activities in relation to the marine living resources (CCAMLR, Article VII(2)(b)).


CCAMLR managed fisheries


Nine finfish fisheries, including two exploratory fisheries, were conducted under CCAMLR conservation measures in force during the 2001/02 fishing season. These included Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) fisheries in sub-areas 88.1 and 88.2. Other Patagonian toothfish fisheries existed in the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of South Africa (sub-areas 58.6 and 58.7 – Prince Edward and Marion Islands), France (sub-area 58.6 and Division 58.5.1 – Kerguelen and Crozet Islands) and Australia (58.5.2 – Heard and McDonald Islands) by trawl and longlines. A Japanese vessel undertook commercial pot fishing for crabs and the Republic of Korea undertook exploratory squid fishing. Fishing for krill was undertaken by Japan, Republic of Korea, Poland, Ukraine and the United States. CCAMLR fisheries and total allowable catches set by the CCAMLR Commission are detailed in Table 2.





Table 2: CCAMLR fisheries and total allowable catch (TAC) limits set by the CCAMLR Commission for the 2002/03 season. (Source: CCAMLR 2002b; AFMA 2002)

CCAMLR Area Region Species TAC (tonnes) 2002/03
48.3 South Georgia Patagonian toothfish 7,810
48.4 South Sandwich Islands Patagonian toothfish No assessment
48.6 Bouvet Island Patagonian toothfish 455t north of 65°S & 445t south of 65°S
58.4.3a Elan Bank Patagonian toothfish 250
58.4.3b Banzare Patagonian toothfish 300
58.5.1 Kerguelen Islands Patagonian toothfish No assessment
58.5.2 Heard and McDonald Islands Patagonian toothfish 2,879
58.7 Prince Edward Island EEZ Patagonian toothfish 400
58.7 Prince Edward Island (ausserhalb EEZ) Patagonian toothfish Prohibited
88.1 Ross Sea Patagonian toothfish 256t north of 65°S & 350t south of 65°S
88.2 Ross Sea Patagonian toothfish 375t south of 65°S
48.3 South Georgia Squid 2,500
48.3 South Georgia Mackerel icefish 2,181
58.5.1 Kerguelen Island Mackerel icefish closed
58.5.2 Heard and McDonald Islands Mackerel icefish 2,980
48.1 & 48.2 Antarctic Peninsula & South Orkney Island Other finfish closed
48.3 South Georgia Sub-Antarctic Lanternfish 109,000
48.1 South Shetland Islands Krill 1.008 Mio
48.2 South Orkney Islands Krill 1.104 Mio
48.3 South Georgia Krill 1.056 Mio
48.4 South Sandwich Islands Krill 0.832 Mio
58.4.2 Prydz Bay Krill 450,000
58.4.1 Antarctic coastal region Krill 440,000
48.3 South Georgia Crab 1,600





AFMA (2002). Report on the key outcomes of the twenty-first meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR XXI). Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), Canberra, Australia.


CCAMLR (2001). Schedule of conservation measures in force 2001/02. Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), Hobart, Australia.


CCAMLR (2002a). Understanding CCAMLR’s approach to management. Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), Hobart, Australia, Accessed 26 November 2002.


CCAMLR (2002b). Report of the twenty-first meeting of the Commission. Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), Hobart, Australia.


CCAMLR (2003). Convention introduction. Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)>, Hobart, Australia, Accessed 24 March 2003.


Constable, A.J. (2002). The status of Antarctic fisheries research. In Jabour-Green, J. and Haward, M. (eds), The Antarctic: Past, present and future, Antarctic CRC Research Report No 28, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 71-84.


Rothwell, D.R. (1998). The Antarctic Treaty System and the Southern Ocean. In Bateman, S, and Rothwell, D.R. (eds), Southern Ocean fishing: Policy challenges for Australia, Centre for Maritime Policy, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia, 5-40.

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