Scientific observations in CCAMLR fisheries – past, present and future
CCAMLR has the primary competency for managing fishing south of the Antarctic Polar Front. Despite a relatively long history of scientific research and fisheries, CCAMLR’s fisheries management strategy has often had to deal with incomplete and uncertain information on affected resources. Fishery-independent studies are difficult and expensive to conduct. In addition, the size of the Convention Area, its remoteness and prevailing inclement weather further complicate matters. Therefore, in addition to the standard catch and effort data supplied by vessels, the collection of data by scientifically qualified observers on board fishing vessels has assumed prominence in the collection of essential data for fisheries management purposes. The Scheme of International Scientific Observation, adopted by CCAMLR in 1992, is designed to gather and validate fishery-related information essential for assessing the status of target species as well as the impact of fishing on dependent and related species, including seabirds and marine mammals. The scheme is limited to scientific observation only and is separate from enforcement issues which are covered by the CCAMLR System of Inspection. Under the scheme, observers are deployed under bilateral agreements between CCAMLR Members and they operate on vessels under flags other than that of their own country. This paper outlines the history of the scheme in terms of its logistics, participation, coverage, changes in research priorities, volume of data collected and data usage. The advantages and shortcomings of the scheme are explored.