Can Penguins Survive Without Fish? I Don't Think So…

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is a bit of a mouthful, but that’s rather the point.

Penguins, seals and other land-based animals living on the Antarctic continent enjoy a privileged, if slightly chilly, position. The land they live upon is protected from human exploitation in a way no other environment on Earth is.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Antarctic Ocean surrounding their home, and it’s from there that they get their food.

Until now, CCAMLR has acted as a watchful gatekeeper, allowing fishing to carry on, providing it allows existing stocks to maintain a healthy and sustainable level.

Now, however, it looks as though it might impose the first no-fishing zones in the Antarctic Ocean as a direct result of increased fishing pressure.

In round figures, the Antarctic is home to 10,000 species, many of which live nowhere else on Earth and all of which rely upon the ocean for food and nutrition. As well as penguins, these include petrels, whales, squid, and seals. But with over 85% of the world’s fisheries suffering from man’s influence, these rare creatures are having their food taken away by illegal and over fishing.

One fish is under threat directly.

The Patagonian toothfish is an ugly brute which lives up to 25 years and reaches around 2 meters in length. However, a single fish sells well in excess of $100 and is served as a delicacy in the US, Europe, and Japan. Since its discovery in the 1980s, 25% of its population was wiped out in 1997, and around $400 million worth were landed illegally in 2002.

There is, however, hope.

Today, the Scientific Committee of CCAMLR  starts its 31st session, which will last all week. One of the items on its agenda is the long overdue implementation of protected areas of the Antarctic Ocean.

According to the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (which includes organisations like Greenpeace), over 40% of the ocean should be protected through a system of marine reserves and no-fish zones.

To put pressure on CCAMLR this week, visit the Antarctic Ocean Alliance’s website to find out what’s at stake, and read its report, which makes the case for establishing protected areas [PDF].

Then, when you’ve convinced yourself, sign the petition and — most importantly — tell someone else about the campaign.

Picture Credit: King pen pair crop by Antarctic Bound under CC Attribution No Derivatives license

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