Office Hour on the Southern Ocean MPA proposals that CCAMLR will consider this month, with Evan Bloom (U.S. Department of State) and Claire Christian (Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition)

Event Date: 
Wednesday, 3 July 2013, at 5 pm GMT / 1 pm US EDT / 10 am US PDT

This Office Hour occurred on Wednesday, 3 July 2013, at 5 pm GMT / 1 pm US EDT / 10 am US PDT

This interactive ‘Office Hour’ chat will take your questions on the proposals for new Southern Ocean MPAs to be considered this month at a Special Meeting of CCAMLR (the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources).

One proposal, for an MPA in the Ross Sea Region, has been submitted by the U.S. and New Zealand and would cover approximately 2.27 million km2, making it the largest MPA in the world. Nearly 1.6 million km2 of the MPA would be no-take. The second proposal, for East Antarctica, has been submitted by Australia, France, and the EU, and recommends seven areas for designation as MPAs. The Special Meeting of CCAMLR begins 15 July in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Answering your questions in this Office Hour will be:

  • Evan Bloom - Director of the Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. representative to CCAMLR.
  • Claire Christian - Director of the Secretariat for the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), which represents the conservation interests of more than 30 member organizations worldwide.

CCAMLR made a commitment to meet the World Summit on Sustainable Development target to establish a representative system of MPAs by 2012. Although CCAMLR was not able to achieve consensus on such a system in 2012, it did recognize the importance of MPAs and agreed to hold the Special Meeting to progress the Ross Sea and East Antarctica proposals.

Audience members are encouraged to review the following before participating in the chat:

More about the Office Hour: The event will be a live interactive ‘chat’ conducted by typing and reading text - there is no audio component. Office Hour chats provide an opportunity for audience members to ask questions to our guests; audience members may also share their own experiences and insights with the guests and other participants. There is multi-directional flow of information. All participants are able (and encouraged) to post, and all participants are able to view all posts. Inappropriate or off-topic content will be controlled. You do not need to be logged into the OpenChannels site to participate in the chat, but you are encouraged to create a user account and log in so you do not need to type your name in every post.

Office Hour Archives

ClaireChristian: Hi everyone! My name is Claire Christian and I am from the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, an organization working for Antarctic environmental protection since 1978. I'm looking forward to answering your questions about Southern Ocean MPAs.

Evan Bloom: Hi. I'm Evan Bloom, and I work on Antarctic policy issues at the State Department in Washington. I'll be head of the U.S. delegation to the up coming special session of CCAMLR. It is a pleasure to join you.

David: might the MPA designation inspire the US CCAMLR Delegation to challenge the archaic and ill-founded CCAMLR harvest rules that allow the Ross Sea toothfish adult population to be reduced by 50% by 2025

Evan Bloom: @David - The MPA proposal is about a lot more than toothfish. We are trying to protect key ecosystems. We look to our scientists at NOAA to advise us on aspects of the toothfish fishery.​

DanielCressey: Hi Claire and Evan. Daniel from Nature News here. Could you outline what you think the main potential stumbling blocks will be at this meeting? And how would you rate the chances of reaching agreement this time?

ClaireChristian: @DanielCressey The main stumbling blocks will be that some countries have serious concerns about the justification for the current proposals on the table. They simply are not convinced that the MPAs are worthwhile...

L Bolen: Hello. Will these MPAs offer specific language for humpback whale protections -any regulations different than already existing?

Evan Bloom: @L Bolen: Although the establishment of the MPAs may have some benefits for whales, that's not the main focus, as whales conservation is within the jurisdiction of the IWC.

Grant Ballard: How will the amount of toothfish fishing in Area B of the proposed MPA differ from the current amount?

Evan Bloom: @Grant Ballard - the reduced take in Area B, the Special Research Zone, is described in para. 6 of our joint proposal. It is a bit detailed, but in general the TF catch is not to exceed 1450 tonnes in each fixed five year period, with a limit of 500 tonnes in any one season.

DanielCressey: @Claire - that sounds pretty fundamental. What's your plan to counter that viewpoint? What pieces of evidence will you point to?

ClaireChristian: @DanielCressey As for the chances of reaching agreement, that is very uncertain. It may be that the countries currently blocking acceptance of the proposals will be able to compromise, but that may mean substantial changes to the proposals in terms of size, scope, etc.

Evan Bloom: @DanielCressey - CCAMLR works on the basis of consensus, which means that we need the support of all Members. Getting so many different countries on the same page is quite a challenge. We've spent about three years working on this MPA proposal, and we hope we've been able to provide convincing justifications. The results will depend on how each government approaches the negotiations and a willingness to make compromises.

David: Thanks, Evan. Despite MPA designation the plan is to continue to extract 3000 tonnes of toothfish from the Ross Sea, is that correct?

Arlo Hanlin Hemphill: Claire - how optimistic are you that we can maneuver around the stumbling block countries or bring them to the table. I've heard particular concerns about Russia/Ukraine. How do you see negotiations with them playing out?

ClaireChristian: @Arlo. For Russia/Ukraine, those countries have a very different perspective than some other CCAMLR countries on how CCAMLR should work and how best to manage the Southern Ocean. We are trying to convince them that MPAs complement CCAMLR's work in managing fisheries.

ClaireChristian: @DanielCressey @Arlo It's tough. We along with the Antarctic Ocean Alliance have done a lot of outreach to those countries, and have produced reports on the scientific basis for protection. For the Ross Sea, it is the least disturbed ecosystem on the planet and to me that is an extremely compelling justification for protection.

Guest171: Clair & Evan, What are the threats to the Ross Sea ecosystem and how would the Ross Sea MPA proposal minimize or mitigate them?

Benjamin: Hi all. Claire, saying "worthwile", I understand that the scientific case does not make consensus yet, isn't it ?

ClaireChristian: @Benjamin Enormous amounts of scientific information underlie both proposals. However, science only tells us what is there. It's ultimately a policy question as to whether something should be protected. Does that answer your question?

Benjamin: @Claire, thank you yes. My question was related to the fact that some people questionned the scientific background of some proposals (it was probably more directed to the East Antartic proposal).

ClaireChristian: @Benjamin That is true. Again it may be a matter of opinion more than science, though it is framed as a science objection. Some countries have indicated that they want there to be evidence of an imminent threat before approving MPA proposals. But that doesn't mean the science in the proposals is inaccurate.

MarthaMcConnell: Hi Evan, Is there concern yet that some countries may support Ross Sea over East Antarctic proposal (or vice versa) and thus preventing consensus? Thanks.

Evan Bloom: @MarthaMcConnell: We (US and NZ) have been working closely with Australia/France/EU and we mutually support each other's proposals. Our hope is that both will be successful. I trust we can find a way forward for both proposals.

DanielCressey: Thanks both @Evan: Could you expand on how the 'special research zone' in the plans would work? And will there be any funding specifically earmarked for science in this zone?

Evan Bloom: @DanielCressey - The SRZ will give an opportunity for all CCAMLR members to conduct key climate-related science, allowing a comparison to be made between a lightly fished area in "B" and the more heavily fished area to the north. We are confident that nations including the U.S. will want to conduct such research, and this is an excellent area for such research.

emdesanto: Hello, Elizabeth De Santo here. Has there been any discussion regarding what percentage of the areas should be no-take (for either proposal)?

emdesanto: My question may have been lost - has there been any discussion of percentages/proportions of no-take for these areas? It is not clear in the proposals that have been made public. Thank you (Elizabeth).

ClaireChristian: @emdesanto There has been a lot of discussion of no-take areas. In fact, I would say this is the most contentious issue. Some countries think that CCAMLR's approach to management, which is supposed to be precautionary, is all the protection the Southern Ocean needs and that without fishing, important research on fish populations cannot be done.

Arlo Hanlin Hemphill: @Evan - how important is the US support of these proposals. Does this have a lot of influence with other member states? Going back to Russia, how does this factor in?

Evan Bloom: @Arlo Hanlin Hemphill - The U.S. has had a very strong profile in terms of Antarctic science for the past 50 years, and we have been particularly active in Ross Sea science. I think other countries are very interested in the scientific justifications that we can put on the table in this context.

DanielCressey: Are there any other areas of Antarctica that you would like to see future MPA proposals regarding?

Evan Bloom: @DanielCressey - There are additional proposals for Antarctic MPAs. All of them need to be reviewed on their merits. There are only two fully before the Commission at this stage.

Grant Ballard: Thanks Evan - By allowing fishing to continue in the most productive fishing areas - essentially unrestricted over Iselin Bank and with the Area B at a reduced(?) but still substantial amount, it seems like some countries have reason to suspect that the Ross Sea MPA as proposed essentially allows business as usual for the countries that have easiest access...and limits other countries future abilities to exploit there any chance it would be more politically compelling to establish the entire area as a no-take reserve?

Evan Bloom: @Grant Ballard - The original U.S. proposal would have had what we now call the Special Research Zone as a no-take area. However, we reached a compromise with NZ on this. We feel that we've reached a good balance between the key equity of maintaining information flowing from the tagging program and the scientific needs that will allow a comparison of the SRZ area to the fished area above.

Arlo Hanlin Hemphill: Thanks Evan & Claire. Sounds like it's been a tough nut to crack with those countries, but there is potential light at the end of the tunnel. Great.

David: Evan & Claire, my understanding is that the Ross Sea MPA would not prohibit kill fishing nor scientific whaling. What about 'scientific fishing' using commercial longliners, who then sell their catch?

Evan Bloom: @David - Zone A, the largest part of our MPA proposal, prohibits all fishing -- not just toothfish. Whaling isn't covered. We would allow fishing for scientific purposes but only as allowed under CCAMLR's rules (CM 24-01).

Arlo Hanlin Hemphill: If we do gain consensus for the proposals, what happens next? What does implementation look like? When would measures roll out and by whom?

Evan Bloom: @Arlo Hanlin Hemphill - If (or when, let's be optimistic) we get consensus, the MPA would start in December 2014, although there will be some elements to still work out after agreement in Bremerhaven, including a Research and Monitoring Plan.

hsieh: going off @Arlo, how will the MPAs be enforced?

ClaireChristian: @Guest171 The main threat to the Ross Sea ecosystem is fishing. The current MPA proposal tries to mitigate the threat by distributing the catch in certain areas and in one area, limiting the catch to a certain time of year so as not to interrupt spawning. We support the proposal as a first step but think that the amount of no-take areas should be increased in the future.

JMcGrath: Regarding the proposed expiration dates, do you foresee actually accomplishing the goals of the MPAs within the given time frame? Why were these expiration dates chosen?

ClaireChristian: @JMcGrath I'll leave it to Evan to answer why the specific time frames were chosen, but the idea of expiration dates is being promoted by stumbling block countries as something that would make them more likely to accept the proposals. They are not necessarily concerned with accomplishing the MPA objectives but with not permanently blocking off access to fishing.

Evan Bloom: @JMcGrath - In the current proposals, we have provisions for review, but there isn't an "expiration date" as such. The Commission after 50 years would need to decide to reaffirm or modify, but the MPA doesn't expire.

emdesanto: Thank you Claire - and is there a particular proportion/percentage that you think carries weight politically? It's an interesting conundrum between science and policy.

ClaireChristian: @emdesanto No particular percentage, but for some countries any large no-take area (thousands or more square kilometers) is difficult to accept. I don't think that they believe that there are any benefits to be gained from putting large areas off limits. They also do not like any proposals that disrupt existing fisheries.

Evan Bloom: @emdesanto - The overall size of our proposed MPA is 2.27 million km2. Of that, the size of the no-take area would be 1.8 m km2.

L Bolen: david asked this earlier -Re: collaboration with IWC to prohibit "scientific permit" whaling. There's pressure by nations to use this permit in S Ocean. Plus protection on krill fishing?

Evan Bloom: @L Bolen - CCAMLR doesn't do whales policy/conservation. CCAMLR and IWC aren't working together on this to my knowledge.

David: Evan, would you please elaborate. Currently NZ uses commercial longliners to conduct 'pre-recruit surveys' that are no different from out-right fishing. Will these be allowed to continue in the no fishing zone on the shelf?

Arlo Hanlin Hemphill: Yes, "when", thank you @Evan. Going back to the other participants add-on question, how will enforcement work?

nwehner: We're also semi-live tweeting this chat! Follow @OpenChannelsOrg on Twitter and the #OCoffice for coverage on the go :)

emdesanto: Thank you Claire and Evan. To follow up on another question, how did the 2064 review/expiry date come about?

ClaireChristian: @emdesanto Some countries in CCAMLR said they could not accept proposals without an expiration date, and the proponents for Ross Sea and East Antarctic came up with the current "review clauses" as a solution. It should be noted that an outright expiration date is totally unprecedented for MPAs, though review clauses are standard.

ClaireChristian: @emdesanto I believe current review dates have been chosen to allow enough time for enough long-term research to be obtained to inform future decisions about the MPA.

emdesanto: Thank you Claire, that's an interesting and somewhat worrying precedent.

thsieh: are the proposed MPAs just between the countries involved or will the MPAs apply to all nations in the world? How will the MPAs be enforced?

Evan Bloom: @thesieh and others: On enforcement, the Commission have developed many different techniques to enforce Conservation Measures, and those same techniques would be used here. A number of countries maintain capabilities to try to combat illegal (IUU) fishing in the Southern Ocean, and that will certainly help. Also, the MPAs only bind the Members of CCAMLR. Still almost all countries active in Antarctica, including fishing there, are parties. Application to illegally fishing vessels or their flag states is a long-standing problem in all regional fisheries bo

Guest171: Clair & Evan, I wonder if enough is known about the distibutions and movements of the different life history stages of toothfish in the Ross Sea to reliably assess the effects of the fishery or the benefit of the proposed MPA. -- Also, I'd like your thoughts as to whether this information can be obtained by the commercial fishery as it currently operates?

ClaireChristian: @Guest171 For a long-lived species like toothfish, the current information is sorely lacking, and some of it will not be obtained by the fishery. For example, some stages of the life history take place in inaccessible areas. There is a lot we don't know about toothfish life history.

Evan Bloom: @Guest171 - issues related to the life history of toothfish are more for the scientists than me, but I know this is something they talk about quite a bit, and my impression is that there is much we don't know. However, we are trying to apply what we do know in order to fix the boundaries of the MPA, protect locations we think are spawning areas, etc. Presumably information from industry will help.

Grant Ballard: Is there anything we can do to achieve more thorough protection for the entire Ross Sea shelf and slope in the near, medium, or long term, particularly considering it's unique role as the most pristine ocean on Earth and the last place that will have a functional sea-ice ecosystem given climate change?

DanielCressey: How do you see the balance of conservation vs exploitation in the Antarctic going forward? Is it likely to shift one way or the other? Should we view these MPAs as the start of increased protection? Or as the safeguarding of important regions in the face of increasing resource extraction?

ClaireChristian: @DanielCressey Unfortunately, there are huge differences of opinion about the purpose of CCAMLR. Some countries have indicated that they see CCAMLR's purpose as facilitating fishing in the Southern Ocean. Other countries consider conservation more important. Going forward, I think there will be continuing clashes over how to strike the right balance.

Evan Bloom: @DanielCressey - if these MPAs are established, they will be an important step towards achieving the UN's mandate for marine protected areas. And it could be a step in the right direction towards greater international cooperation regarding the oceans.

thsieh: @Evan, if the MPAs only bind members of CCAMLR, what are specific measures to prevent other countries from fishing in the MPAs and reduce illegal fishing?

nwehner: @thsieh: Feel free to email Claire.Christian [at] for follow-up on your questions

David: Claire, following on from guest171, whose questions haven't really been addressed, what longterm research has been proposed by CCAMLR members for the Ross Sea?

Grant Ballard: Should the onus of proving evidence of ecosystem impacts due to extraction (e.g., of toothfish) should be on the conservation/scientific communities, or on the industry side? It seems like this has switched over the history of CCAMLR to the present day situation where the "burden of proof" is on the conservation side.

Evan Bloom: @Grant Ballard - great if we can do more to protect the Ross Sea shelf and slope, but we have to have everyone on board. That's very hard, but we'll keep trying.

Arlo Hanlin Hemphill: Thank you Evan and Claire - great discussion.

nwehner: OK everyone, we are now closing this Office Hour - thank you all for joining us

nwehner: And a special thanks to Claire and Evan for their time and incredible typing speed!

nwehner: We will have the chat archived on this page in a few hours, so check back later for the full record.

nwehner: Be sure to create an OpenChannels account and signup for the OC Weekly Update to be informed about future events, and follow us on Twitter @OpenChannelsOrg

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