The objective of this project was to raise New Zealanders’ awareness of the importance of the area between Foveaux Strait and the South Pole, to highlight the reasons why it is of such value and to outline the threats and opportunities. The more aware New Zealanders are of these issues, the more likely our future governments are to make decisions that reflect an ongoing commitment to this region. Specifically; commitment to preserve the integrity of the environment, respect the unique value it has for scientific progress, minimise the chances of its ecosystem being destroyed by short term exploitative ventures, and maintain it as a valued destination. In short, without knowledge the public cannot be expected to provide the commitment needed to ensure New Zealand governments protect our interests in Our Far South.
The Southern Ocean plays a vital role in regulating the climate of the planet and evidence of anthropogenic climate change is mounting in terms of substantial changes in the region. Monitoring these changes, and promoting the research that furthers our understanding of how these changes will impact humankind, is of critical importance. We have a responsibility to support the efforts of the teams of international of scientists committed to this work.
There are various claims and treaties that govern territorial ownership in Anarctica. Having an appreciation of the historical perspective helps understand where this might lead us. From the age of exploration to staking claims, to the Antarctic Treaty System, the history records the tussle. And now we have the Extended Continental Shelf Treaty and the open slather that pertains to the sea floor around Antarctica. What is in store? Will it be a re-run of the contested chaos that characterises the Arctic contest?
Our subantarctic islands have been described as “the most diverse and extensive of all subantarctic archipelagos”. We need to understand the detail and relevance of the biodiversity of the sub-Antarctic Islands and why we should care enough to protect it. The Southern Ocean diversity is central to life on the whole planet. Maintenance of this biodiversity, in the face of climate change, pollution, and overfishing are all matters of concern.
Overfishing threatens the sustainability of the region’s ecosystems, ecosystems vital to sustainability of life on the planet. There is much debate over what a sustainable level of fishing is for this region. Good research, regulatory arrangements and compliance from industrial fishers is key to sustainability.
The issue of tourism is a vexed one, the risk of ecological damage to a pristine environment being the most published one. On the other hand, the strongest advocates of protection and guardianship of the region tend to be those members of the public who have been fortunate enough to see it. The power of this public endorsement cannot be overestimated.
Antarctica has large known reserves of many minerals including copper, gold and silver, as well as oil and gas. What happens when someone decides to start mineral exploitation. The frozen continent’s minerals offer the allure of turning Antarctica into an El Dorado in future, much as is looming right now in the “race for the Arctic”.