Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources

In the light of the growing interest in utilisation of Antarctica's resources, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CAMLR-Convention) was adopted on 20 May 1980. It entered into force on 7 April 1982.

As is so often the case, the need for a convention on the conservation of Antarctica's marine living resources was a negative one: overfishing within a short period of time (the former Soviet Union had decimated the stocks of marbled rockcod within two fishing seasons) triggered negotiations on such a convention. Another reason for adopting the convention was the danger of overfishing krill stocks. The CAMLR-Convention was the first to integrate an ecosystem approach for protection and management of marine living resources.

The CAMLR-Convention applies to all species of local organisms: fin fish, molluscs, crustaceans and even birds in the area south of 60°south longitude and the territory between there and the Antarctic Convergence as part of the Antarctic Ocean's ecosystem. The objective of the convention is to conserve the marine living resources in the Southern Ocean, whereby the term 'conservation' includes rational use of the resources.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established in Hobart, Australia, to implement and monitor the convention. The Commission develops Conservation Measures, for example by setting catch limits for fishing in Antarctic waters and monitoring for compliance; it identifies endangered species and designates specially protected areas which are used for research purposes.

Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) is a growing threat to the sensitive ecological balance, putting  fish stocks as well as sea birds and seal populations at risk. Time and time again ships are caught engaging in illegal fishing by neighbouring countries, who then confiscate their catch. However, it is difficult to effectively control IUU in the inhospitable and spacious waters around Antarctica.