Conservation and the Antarctic environment: The working group reports of the joint IUCN/SCAR Symposium on the scientific requirements for Antarctic conservation
Six working groups were set up at the joint IUCN/SCAR Symposium on the scientific requirements for Antarctic conservation. These were charged with (i) identifying gaps in the scientific understanding of ecosystems that inhibit rational management, and (ii) considering whether present conservation practices were taking enough account of what is known of the region, particularly with regard to protected areas. There is still a need for synthesis and further work on stocks and the life history of krill in the pelagic ecosystem. Monitoring strategies are not clear and biomass determinations are difficult and costly. Information on squid is lacking. Although there is much information on higher consumers there is a gap in knowledge of dynamic ecological processes, particularly in winter. Studies of crabeater seals deserve priority. The network of existing protected areas is inadequate for preserving all species of birds, seals and whales; new criteria are needed for effective conservation. On land, the Agreed Measures provide an adequate framework for conservation, though additional steps are needed to ensure adherence to their provisions. Selection criteria are deficient. Additional measures are required; these include the establishment of Conservation Areas, general provision for the protection of biota, and a code of conduct for all activities. Exploitation of marine mammals (except the minke whale) has ceased. Monitoring whales presents difficulties. Fish stocks are significantly exploited and better monitoring is required. Prediction of trends in krill catches is difficult but there has been a large drop in krill fishing effort. Localised effects on predators could occur with catches of a few million metric tons. Commercial mineral exploitation in the Antarctic is a long way in the future but exploitation could result from political motives. There is a need for a data base for the design of investigations and impact assessment. Operational hazards need to be modelled in advance. It is important not to go too far too fast. Antarctica is unique in its control measures and their implementation. However, Specially Protected Areas lack management plans and management plans at Sites of Special Scientific Interest are not consistent. There are inadequate guidelines on the development of scientific stations. The coastal region must be regarded as critical habitat. A comprehensive conservation strategy is required with a broader network of protected areas giving full consideration to marine as well as terrestrial areas. Copies of the full working group reports have been deposited with IUCN and SCAR.