Managing the fishery for Antarctic krill was the driving force behind the establishment of CCAMLR. Changes in the global market for krill and the technology used to catch it have raised the prominence of the krill fishery and, although current catches are small in comparison to the catch limits in place, lessons from fisheries around the world suggest that the response times of management actions means that waiting until problems are detected sets a course for failure. The precautionary approach to managing fisheries that is embodied by CCAMLR can be likened to progressing forward at a pace that is dictated by our understanding of the effects of the fishery, rather than charging towards a cliff and hoping you will be able to stop right at the edge! At the core of the range of measures used to manage this fishery is the Krill Yield Model that was developed in the 1990s. As the paper by Kinzey et al. shows, this model is not broken, but it may be put under strain in the future, and there is a need for management models that can use a wider range of ecosystem-based inputs in determining catch limits in the krill fishery. Using ecosystem indicators to manage the krill fishery is central to CCAMLR and, while the journey from the theoretical to the operational is likely to be challenging, the two Hill papers (Hill and Cannon; Hill and Matthews) provide plenty of food for thought and some tangible pathways to take this subject forward.
Doing research in the Antarctic is always exciting, often exhilarating, sometimes a little dangerous, but always expensive. The cost of doing research means that CCAMLR relies heavily on data from fisheries as inputs into its decision-making processes. The CCAMLR tagging program, that provides tag and recapture data on both Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish, is a central component of stock assessments, including for the Ross Sea toothfish fishery. As with any scientific results, there are a range of assumptions underlying their interpretation and the importance of the tagging data to CCAMLR means that it is regularly scrutinised, as in the papers by Welsford and Ziegler and by Mormede and Dunn. This process of review is critical to ensuring management approaches are ‘robust to our uncertainties’ which basically means even if our assumptions are wrong, the management decisions that are taken will still achieve the required results.
As well as the details of managing individual fisheries, the issue of large-scale spatial conservation has been high on CCAMLR’s agenda for the last few years and the papers by Grant et al. and Trathan et al. both examine issues of conservation planning and, in particular, how taking a proactive approach to spatial conservation is preferable to waiting until a problem arises. We know the Antarctic ‘landscape’ is changing and can make predictions about the future, but there are large uncertainties. Taking a proactive approach means we need to put safety nets in place now in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of an ecosystem in which fisheries are both a provider and user of the best available scientific data.