Email exchange between Peter Young and I after the “Last Ocean” premier

Gareth MorganEnvironment, Fisheries Management

The following is an email exchange between Myself and Peter Young, Director of “The Last Ocean”.  We are both focussed on how to stop fishing in the Ross Sea Region, but each have a very different approach on how to achieve that end.

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[space height=”10″] [message_box title=”Gareth” color=”#fff”]

Hi Peter,

I enjoyed your film. I think you present your case clearly – no fishing because it’s the “last ocean”.

As you know I disagree with the logic;

(a) There is no logic to claiming that the world’s most pristine ocean should be the leading candidate for a moratorium on fishing which is your case. I happen to side with Daniel Pauly (as I outlined in Hook, Line and Blinkers) that wild fish harvesting has grossly overshot. The answer is to pull back fishing across the globe and most importantly in those areas where the current harvest is greatest. Saving the toothfish is 99% symbolism and 1% material to that priority. It doesn’t even qualify as a start really. That leads me to question the rationale for the whole crusade, so much effort for such a trivial gain..



[message_box title=”Peter” color=”Green”]

Hi Gareth – thanks for the email and for coming to the film. I appreciated that. It’s good to get your position in more detail and I have responded below.

Cheers Peter….

This is simply about wanting to protect an incredibly unique, natural environment in an area that is already afforded a great deal of protection – natural and political. Given the declining state of the world’s oceans – protection of the Ross Sea is not a trivial gain but a hugely important one. It would be a triumph for common sense – like the treaty itself. I would say the trivial gain is the 40 or so million the toothfish earns the different nations each year – compared to huge loss for future generations. The Ross Sea is a global treasure – like the Serengeti and it fully deserves protection.

[/message_box] [message_box title=”Gareth” color=”#fff”]Yes the issue is whether controlled toothfish fishing is doing as you claim – destroying the ecosystem. Your opponents would claim they’re not threatening the “unique, natural environment”. So for me that becomes a matter of evidence. I’m with you in not wanting at all to see it destroyed, so does the evidence suggest it is? Surely that’s where the discussion should be directed. We can’t even be 100% sure it’s protected if there was no fishing going on – climate change is at least as big a threat. And then we have the issue of CCAMLR requiring everyone to agree otherwise its status quo or worse. So for your call to work we need Ukraine, Korea and Russia to agree too – with the huge risk if there’s no agreement then it could become open slather.[/message_box]

(b)  CCAMLR is about sustainable use, harvesting and associated activities. So a moratorium is not within its scope.

[message_box title=”Peter” color=”Green”]CCAMLR is not only about sustainable use – it was set up to conserve Antarctica’s marine resources – one clause allows for rational use amongst a whole heap about protecting the environment. It is only since this fishery started that CCAMLR’s focus has moved more into fisheries management. The opportunity that exists now is a result of CCAMLR’s commitment to establish MPA’s. Now is our chance to make the right decision and I believe it is in everyone’s long term interests to not fish in the Ross Sea. It is environmentally risky, it is a source of conflict, it doesn’t actually make that much money.

I accept that ccamlr is doing a good a job under those circumstances and that this is the frame that we have to work within..[/message_box] [message_box title=”Gareth” color=”Green”]Now all power to you in getting a moratorium but my genuine fear is that you manage just partial success – ie; one or two CCAMLR members agreeing with you. I see that as being a disaster and If that should happen I’d kiss the toothfish goodbye within 5 years because it would amount to a breakdown of the consensus. As you no doubt well aware Russia and the Ukraine have been aggressively pushing for a lift in catch limits. With no consensus they can go for gold, no longer constrained. This is why I see tub thumping activism as totally reckless – reminds me of the whaling breakdown and who caused that.[/message_box] [message_box title=”Peter” color=”Green”]We are asking for a moratorium with consensus and of course that’s a challenge but despite that I genuinely believe there is a possibility – despite how small that possibility may be I wasn’t prepared to sit back and not give it a try.

I realize the ask needs to be more than asking for a halt to fishing, it needs a whole paradigm shift and we need to be offering alternative ways to benefit from the Ross Sea –  I believe there are better uses than simply fishing (Stuart Prior agrees too). Selling the Ross Sea as a pristine ecosystem for the world to see and share – Tourism has potential to earn more $ than fishing and as an industry is more easy to regulate in terms of vessels. It celebrates what is special about he RS, creates awareness and ambassadors.

I’m fully aware that any change needs to happen within the CCAMLR consensus system. If NZ was to withdraw from fishing and form an alliance with US and try to convince other nations then that’s a bloody good start. We can’t do that while we are still down there fishing. Convincing other nations won’t  happen overnight but it could happen – it just take political will. No nukes put us on the world stage – gave us huge kudos and contributed significantly to the Clean Green image that we have since traded on ever since. It has added hugely to our economy. The RS offers NZ a similar opportunity to show leadership in the field of conservation.

CCAMLR has incredible laws of protection that the fishery already exists under. If NZ pulled out – the worst case scenario is that other nations would continue to fish under these regulations, while we and other nations would continue to pressure them to not fish. I don’t believe it will turn into a free for all. We need to make the most of this current opportunity when MPA’s are on CCAMLR’s agenda to protect as match of the Ross Sea as we can.

In an ideal world Gareth – would you like to see an area like the Ross Sea protected? if the answer is yes, then why not give it a go? [/message_box] [message_box title=”Gareth” color=”Green”] Firstly protection is not necessarily at odds with fishing, which you assume it is. Certainly if the fishing management is insufficient then it would be of course by definition. The risk of a breakdown in the consensus leading to an open season is for me, not worth the risk of your tactic. Basically I see AOA as pretty reckless, deploying similar tactics that failed with whales. I see at times it’s all about the glory rather than a well calculated assessment of risk. [/message_box]

(c) And finally the glass house problem. It seems incredibly hypocritical to be attacking CCAMLR when we come from a country that doesn’t even have a “whole of ecology” approach.

[message_box title=”Peter” color=”Green”]I genuinely am not anti-fishing. I understand that the issue we face in the RS is because of humanities demand for fish – and that ‘s what sends the boats there – along with the need for these guys to run a business. When ever asked –  I have said that NZ is setting the standard down there – but that’s obviously having very little affect (judging by last year’s performance of other boats) nor is it in my mind, justification for us to be there.

If you would like to meet up with Stuart Prior, I would be happy to introduce you to him. Stuart has respect for Greg Johansson and a broad outlook and some thoughts on other options.[/message_box] [message_box title=”Gareth” color=”Green”]I know Stuart and I haven’t seen any logic from him on this that impresses me. For me the best way to attack CCAMLR – and remember I do support no fishing in the Ross Sea and in a hell of a lot of other areas in the world besides (that was in our book) – is to show up these MSC accreditation & CCAMLR science conclusions as not being based on reliable science at all, that the accuracy of the science on this species is crippled due to lack of data on spawning areas, eggs, larvae; ignorance on spawning intervals. This gap makes the error margins huge.

This is where I would launch my attack rather than play the political game and run the risk of making things heaps worse and very fast.[/message_box] [message_box title=”Peter” color=”Green”]Thanks Gareth – you have certainly livened up the debate and that’s a good thing,

All the best, Peter. [/message_box] [message_box title=”Gareth” color=”Green”]Happy to publicly debate this with anyone. It is clear we want the same outcome but have totally different risk profiles in terms of achieving that end.[/message_box]

Anyway I really hope that I could wake up and you and AOA have convinced all 25 members to adopt a moratorium. I just find the tactic way too high risk because of the risk of partial success only.

All the best with the film



Email exchange between Peter Young and I after the “Last Ocean” premier was last modified: December 15th, 2015 by Gareth Morgan
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Gareth Morgan

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Gareth Morgan is a New Zealand economist and commentator on public policy who in previous lives has been in business as an economic consultant, funds manager, and professional company director. He is also a motorcycle adventurer and philanthropist. Gareth and his wife Joanne have a charitable foundation, the Morgan Foundation, which has three main stands of philanthropic endeavour – public interest research, conservation and social investment.