Southern Ocean Marine Conservation (CCAMLR)

The Department of State’s Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs is an active participant in the multilateral conservation efforts of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and provides the U.S. Commissioner to that organization. The State Department works closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) on all matters under CCAMLR, which was established by the Consultative Parties to the Antarctic Treaty System in 1982. Generally regarded as a model for regional cooperation in the area of fisheries, this consensus-based organization has 25 Commission members and 34 total parties. CCAMLR meets once a year at its headquarters in Hobart, Australia.

The geographic area under CCAMLR’s administrative jurisdiction extends to 60o South latitude, and north of 60o South latitude to the Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic Convergence represents a biological and geographical boundary where cold northerly moving waters meet warmer subtropical, southerly moving waters, thereby creating an effective barrier to the migration of fish stocks. Prominent species within this ecosystem are subject to commercial exploitation. These include toothfish (often known as Chilean sea bass in U.S. markets) and krill. Other species, such as albatross and petrels, are the focus of current international conservation programs.

In order to address risks to commercially exploited fish stocks, CCAMLR maintains a commitment to the application of management practices that are ecosystem-based and precautionary in nature. Ecosystem-based management acknowledges that fishing and other activities take place within complex communities of organisms and habitats and that fishing is only one of many human activities that have an impact on these marine environments. These management principles are consistent with U.S. objectives in many fisheries management organizations around the world and central to our scientific programs in the Antarctic region.

The United States champions CCAMLR’s environmental, enforcement, and scientific work in Antarctica. Under the CCAMLR framework, the United States has sponsored and endorsed several conservation measures that seek to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. These include the mandatory use of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), the establishment of a System of Inspection and a Scheme of International Scientific Observers, and required electronic certification to serve as a Catch Document. The United States also participates within a network of like-minded nations conducting active surveillance, vessel apprehension, and enforcing penalties with respect to vessels and crews acting in contravention of CCAMLR conservation measures.

In 2009, CCAMLR committed to create a system of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. In 2012, based on years of scientific and policy work, the United States and New Zealand jointly proposed the creation by CCAMLR of a large MPA in Antarctica's Ross Sea. After five years of intensive scientific review, policy negotiation, and proposal revision, the MPA was adopted during CCAMLR's thirty-fifth annual meeting in Hobart, Australia, which ended October 28, 2016. More information on the Ross Sea MPA can be found here.