Possible effects on fishing from the Ross Sea Region MPA Proposal

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1 HOW FISHERIES AND MARINE PROTECTION CAN COEXIST IN THE SOUTHERN OCEAN October 2016

2 This report discusses the two current marine protected area (MPA) proposals, for East Antarctica and for the Ross Sea, and assesses their potential economic impact on commercial fishing for Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) and Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). The report concludes that the proposed MPAs will have minimal impact on current overall catch limits for the target stocks when new catch spread scenarios are taken into account. For example, the Ross Sea Antarctic toothfish stock total catch limit would remain unchanged by the fishing effort being relocated away from the sensitive continental shelf. The East Antarctic MPA proposal would permit fishing where the fishing will not impact the specific objectives of the MPA. In both of these MPAs, biodiversity and scientific gains could be substantial, while having little impact on current fishing. Jessica Meir Dave Walsh Top: Between 50-72% of South Pacific Weddell seals live year round along the Ross Sea Shelf, where they depend on Antarctic toothfish as a food source. Bottom: The Type C Orca, also known as the Ross Sea killer whale, is distinct to the Ross Sea and specialises in hunting Antarctic toothfish. The MPA proposals in waters governed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) have been developed to protect representative aspects of biodiversity, for research, and as a baseline and comparison for monitoring the impacts of climate change. It is important to note that the fisheries currently operating in these waters represent a small fraction of the total reported catch by tonnage and value of the global catch of the participating CCAMLR Members. Introduction One of the main concerns raised by CCAMLR Members during discussions about the proposed Ross Sea and East Antarctic MPAs has been that MPAs might have a significant impact on fishing levels. To determine the impact of the proposed MPAs on fishing, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance has conducted an economic analysis. An executive summary of the conclusions from this analysis is provided below. The complete analysis is available as an attachment. Possible effects on fishing from the Ross Sea Region MPA Proposal The Ross Sea MPA proposal 2 does not propose to reduce the catch limit in Subareas A&B. However, it would relocate the total catch between the different areas slope, shelf and north of the region. This change, combined with the Special Research Zone (SRZ) and research fishing in the north, could mean greater catches in northern areas and no overall reduction in the total allowable catch (TAC). Historically the catches were allocated between the shelf, slope, and the north (13 percent, 74 percent and 13 percent respectively), based on mean historical catch rates and on the fishable seabed area (600m to 1800m, the depth where toothfish were considered most likely to be found). 1 This has allowed for the geographical spread of the fishery in the areas where tagging of toothfish is a key element for assessing the state of the stock. For this paper the toothfish catch limit of 2,870 tonnes, which is based on the latest stock assessment, was used in the analysis of different scenarios for catch location arrangements if the MPA was designated. The analysis of these scenarios indicates that fishing in the Ross Sea could continue with a similar catch TAC limit (i.e tonnes). Some relocation northward to the Mawson and Iselin Banks and northern seamounts would be required, but this is expected to provide some advantages to fisheries research and fishing itself. The advantages of relocating the catch include:

3 Darci Lombard Rob King, Australian Antarctic Division Top: Antarctic toothfish Bottom: Krill density in the proposed East Antarctica MPA areas is relatively low. Activities, including fishing, will be allowed to take place within an MPA so long as such activity will not adversely impact on the conservation or scientific objectives of that MPA Fishing in the northern area means lower fuel costs and shorter travel time than to southern fisheries; Northern areas are more likely to be free of ice. Recent analysis has shown that a later start to the season assists in making more ice-free areas available for fishing and thus spreading the catch effort. This should also reduce the risk to vessels; Northern areas are away from key toothfish predators such as the Weddell seals and Type C Orcas which are in the West and South of the Ross Sea, areas included in the MPA proposal; and More fish could be tagged in the north, which would increase data available for the spatial population model for the Ross Sea. Possible effects on fishing from the East Antarctic MPA proposal Changes to fishing as a result of the East Antarctic MPA proposal are expected to be minimal. Currently, very little fishing takes place in East Antarctica. Furthermore, the proposed East Antarctic MPA is multiple-use, meaning that activities, including fishing, will be allowed to take place within an MPA so long as such activity will not adversely impact on the conservation or scientific objectives of that MPA. 3 No fishing currently takes place within the proposed MacRobertson MPA as Small Scale Research Unit (SSRU) D is closed to toothfish fishing and no commercial krill fishing has occurred in this subarea for over 20 years. Only part of the proposed Drygalski MPA is open to fishing ( SSRU B is closed to toothfish fishing) while SSRU B is open, it has a zero toothfish TAC. Subarea SSRU C (about half) is open to toothfish fishing and has a TAC of 203 tonnes. For the proposed D Urville Sea-Mertz MPA the area is open to toothfish fishing and sub-area SSRUs G and H have small toothfish catch limits of 127 and 42 tonnes respectively. In East Antarctica the density of krill is low compared to other areas. The densities are about 20 percent of that found in the Peninsula and South Georgia area. 4 There has been krill fishing in this area but not since in and in Krill fishing notifications for this area would need to be assessed against the relevant conservation measures and the MPA objectives. The East Antarctic MPA proposal covers less than 20 percent of the CCAMLR Subareas and and therefore there would still be opportunities to catch krill outside the MPA even if the area was closed to krill fishing. Between and , vessels flagged to four states fished for toothfish in the East Antarctic ( and ). Current SSRU catch limits and catches are relatively small and unlikely to be affected by the proposed MPAs. Conclusions The creation of the proposed MPAs in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica will provide significant protection for biodiversity while having minimal impact on current commercial fishing activity. In addition, the value of the toothfish catches in these areas is small, especially when compared to the catches of the flag states and the value of their fish exports. The impact of the Ross Sea MPAs on fishing would be minimized by moving fishing effort from the shelf and parts of the slope to the northern seamounts, including 88.1A & B north. One important benefit of moving fishing from biodiversity hotspots in the proposed MPA to the northern slope areas and northern seamounts is that fishing vessels will encounter less sea ice. The impacts on fishing in the East

4 OUTCOMES OF ROSS SEA MPA The Ross Sea is one of the most pristine environments in the world. The proposed Ross Sea MPA will ensure this unique ecosystem remains protected for generations to come, whilst fishing can continue in the Special Research Zone and further north. FISHING ON NORTHERN SEAMOUNTS FUTURE FISHING AREA SEAMOUNTS KRZ BALLENY ISLANDS SCOTT ISLAND Why move? The relocation of the toothfish fishery away from the Ross Sea Ice Shelf would provide significant protection to important predator species. ROSS SEA SRZ The benefits 1 Key toothfish predators like Weddell seals and Type C Orcas will not have to compete. 2 More fish could be tagged in the north, filling critical gaps in the region s fisheries data. 3 Fishing operators will catch larger fish in the north, leaving the smaller fish near the shelf to mature. 4 Northern areas are more likely to be free of ice, reducing the risk to fishing vessels. ROSS SEA ICE SHELF SRZ: Current areas fished in the Special Research Zone would be reduced by about a third. Current fishing area: Existing fishing would move from key biodiversity hotspots on the shelf and slope to northern slope areas and seamounts. Fishing areas unaffected

5 PROPOSED EAST ANTARCTIC MPAs Current catch limits and catches in East Antarctica are relatively small so the impact of proposed East Antarctic MPAs on fishing would be minimal. Drygalski MacRobertson B C D E (35t) B C (203t) D (42t) E (246t) F D Urville-Mertz G (127t) A (30t) H (42t) Proposed East Antarctic Marine Protected Areas Total Allowable Catch in East Antarctica s Small Scale Research Units Antarctic MPA proposal areas would most likely be minimal. The MacRobertson area is already closed to commercial exploratory fishing. Over half the proposed Drygalski area is closed to commercial fishing, and the D Urville-Mertz is included in two research fishing blocks for toothfish. This fishing could continue if it is consistent with the objectives of the MPA. If the potential spillover effects of MPAs are considered (that is, a situation in which a fish population increases within an MPA and some fish subsequently migrate outside the MPA), these modest impacts on fishing may be further reduced. The additional gains are protection of a range of ecosystem types and biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, and the establishment of scientific baselines for climate change analysis. In conclusion, it is likely there would be considerable benefits for fisheries, fisheries research and scientific research from the designation of the MPAs, with minimal reduction in the current levels of fishing activity. It should be stressed, however, that the primary objective of MPAs is to protect marine biodiversity. Acknowledgments Author: Barry Weeber Reference Group and Editors: Claire Christian, Rob Nicoll, Mike Walker and Elsa Evers Design: Hilbert Ho Photos: Photos generously provided by Rob King, Darci Lombard, Jessica Meir, John B. Weller, Dave Walsh (front cover), Bruno Marie (back cover). Antarctic Ocean Alliance acknowledges the MPA proposals by New Zealand and the United States, and Australia, EU and France, and the many scientists involved in the published information referred to in this report. The Antarctic Ocean Alliance Ministry of Primary Industry (2015) Toothfish. In Fisheries Assessment Plenary, May 2016: stock assessments and stock status. Compiled by the Fisheries Science Group, Ministry for Primary Industries, Wellington, New Zealand. 2 Delegations of N.Z and U.S Governments (2015) A proposal for the establishment of a Ross Sea Region Marine Protected CCAMLR- XXXIV/29 Rev October 2015 Accessed at https://mfat.govt.nz/ en/environment/antarctica/rosssea-region-marine-protected-areaproposal/ 20 November Australian Government (2013) A proposal for a representative system of Marine Protected Areas in the East Antarctic planning domain. Accessed 21 Nov 2013 from antarctica.gov.au/law-and-treaty/ ccamlr/marine-protected-areas. 4 Nicol, S., A.J. Constable and T. Pauly. (2000) Estimates of circumpolar abundance of Antarctic krill based on recent acoustic density measurements. CCAMLR Science, 7:

6 The Antarctic Ocean Alliance is a coalition of environmental and conservation organisations working to support the creation of a network of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. antarcticocean.org FOLLOW THE CAMPAIGN

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