16 October, 2013 News stories

World’s Antarctic marine experts converge on Hobart

Hobart’s annual gathering of international Antarctic scientists and policy makers is underway. Twenty-five flags flying outside the offices of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Macquarie Street mark the arrival of 25 delegations from around the world.

Over 200 marine scientists, natural resource managers, marine policy makers and diplomats will make crucial decisions about the conservation and management of the living resources of the Southern Ocean, which represents about 10% of the Earth’s surface.

During the first two weeks, the Working Group on Fish Stock Assessment, one of CCAMLR’s specialist groups, reviews the status of fish populations in the Southern Ocean and provides recommendations to the meeting of the Scientific Committee in the third week. The Scientific Committee takes the advice from all of its specialist groups and makes recommendations to the Commission, CCAMLR’s decision-making body.

According to the chairman of the Working Group on Fish Stock Assessment, Dr Mark Belchier, a marine ecologist with the British Antarctic Survey, ‘One of the main tasks for this year’s meeting is to set sustainable catch limits for toothfish and icefish in those parts of the Southern Ocean where they are targeted by fisheries managed by CCAMLR’.
CCAMLR scientists assess all CCAMLR-managed fisheries every 1-2 years. Data used to assess the status and management of CCAMLR-managed fisheries in the Southern Ocean includes information collected from commercial fishing vessels during their fishing operations and through detailed research surveys.

One of the ways CCAMLR obtains information on the size of toothfish populations is by tagging and releasing fish. Fish are measured, tagged with individually numbered tags and released. Knowing how many fish have been tagged and then how many of those fish are recaptured allows the total population of fish in an area to be estimated. ‘During the 2012/13 fishing season almost 14,000 toothfish were tagged and released and, on average, we can expect about 5% of those tagged fish to be recaptured’, says Dr Belchier.

The Scientific Committee starts its week-long meeting on Monday 21 October with the Commission meeting starting on Wednesday 23 October and concluding on Friday 1 November.

Visit the CCAMLR website.