the wing

Fishing in the Southern Ocean: scientists call for a moratorium

On October 20, in the journal Science, ten scientists called for the signing of a moratorium temporarily banning industrial fishing activities in the Southern Ocean. Their recent studies indeed confirm that the current levels of fishing, added to global warming, have devastating effects on these waters, which are nevertheless essential to the planet.

“The Southern Ocean disproportionately absorbs carbon dioxide and heat from the planet, helping to regulate temperature and buffer the global impacts of climate change,” said Cassandra Brooks, lead author of the report and researcher at the Institute. University of Colorado Boulder. It is home to some of the healthiest marine ecosystems in the world, of remarkable scientific and ecological value.

Today, however, twelve countries continue to draw on the precious resources of this marine region. Antarctic krill, caught for processing into fishmeal for farmed salmon and shrimp, and toothfish, a premium product served in the United States, Europe and Asia, are the two species targeted by large fishing companies.

In the absence of indigenous peoples or local fishing communities, these activities therefore benefit very few people. On the other hand, they pose a considerable threat to the food chain in the Southern Ocean. “This localized depletion has significant consequences for predators, including visiting whale populations, which are still recovering from historic depletion,” the report adds. Due to direct competition on these hotspots, in 2021 the krill fishery accidentally killed three juvenile humpback whales for the first time. »

The call from these scientists comes at a time when diplomats from the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) are meeting in Australia for a fortnight of discussions. Established in 1982 by an international convention, its mission is to preserve the marine life of the region in the face of the growing interest of industrial fishing. Will she hear this alert? One thing is certain, in 2016, it had already managed to adopt the largest marine protected area (MPA) in the world, in the Ross Sea.