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11, Jan, 2012

Ross Sea threatened by another fishing vessel disaster


Category: News

Ross Sea threatened by another fishing vessel disaster

The Korean fishing vessel on fire (the Jung Woo 2) is the second fishing vessel in trouble this season in the special Ross Sea area of Antarctica say the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO).

Fishing in the Ross Sea is inherently risky because of the ice conditions and both the environment and the fishing crews are being put at risk, says ECO Co-Chair Cath Wallace. “This is an area that has been marked out by the international community for particular protection.”

“This is the third vessel in serious trouble in the Ross Sea in two years.”

Cath Wallace said the Korean vessel is fishing for toothfish, a high market value species sold to wealthy people eating at restaurants in the USA.  “Fishing crews are being put at extreme risk from fishing in extreme conditions.”

The Ross Sea has been identified by several international processes as one of the last largely intact large ocean ecosystems that needs protection.   Both the Antarctic Treaty System’s Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the IUCN, the global body for conservation have identified the Ross Sea as needing protection.  It is time this protection was provided, said Barry Weeber for ECO.

Cath Wallace said removing the toothfish is unbalancing the ecosystem and is putting the Ross Sea at risk from inevitable marine accidents.  “The international community would be much better served if the Ross Sea were protected and the natural values given priority over market values.”

Companies fish in the Ross Sea for a couple of months a year but the crews, the environment and the Search and Rescue authorities carry the risks.  It is dreadful that three crew are missing and that others were at risk on this boat.

For the second time in a season New Zealand search and rescue authorities are having to mobilise to help fishing crews in the Ross Sea where New Zealand has international responsibility for search and rescue co-ordination..  The risks and losses do not stack up when you consider the value of human life and the environment, said Cath Wallace of ECO.

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1.      ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 55 groups with a concern for the environment.

2.      ECO is a member of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition and has been involved in promoting Antarctic protection for over 25 years.

3.      Toothfish vessels that have got into trouble in the Ross Sea or South of New Zealand include:

  • 2011 - Sparta - (Russian) - holed in the Ross Sea
  • 2011 - Janas - (New Zealand) in July, breaks down fishing for toothfish around Macquarie Island and has to be towed to Auckland islands to get parts.
  • 2010  Insung 1 - (Korea) in December- sinks in the Ross Sea - with 22 crew dead.
  • 2007 Argos Georgia - (UK) - December-January 2008 - breaks down in the Ross Sea and is left floating without power for 16 days before parts are airlifted to them to fix engine.