Fishing for stories...

Today the South Georgia Government announced the creation of the largest Marine Protection Zone in the world, at just over 1 million square kilometres. The area covers a huge area of the southern ocean around the islands of the Scotia Arc, and includes a complete no take zone of 12 miles from the coast of the island in addition to other distinct no take zones in areas that are particularly important because of their ecology. Why, you may well ask is this important? Well, it is significant because it pushes the agenda of well managed fisheries higher on the international agenda - and asks the world to scrutinise the way that the fishery here is managed. There are three distinct species that are fished for here - Mackerel Icefish, Patagonian Toothfish and Krill - and all three already hold certification by the Marine Stewardship Council as being sustainable. I have spent the past month looking into the way that these fisheries are managed - and have taken part in the science work that underpins the way that data is gathered. The information that is gathered from sample trawls like the ones I helped with is assessed as part on an international effort to better manage the southern oceans. The body that oversees this work is called CCAMLR - the Convention for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Quite a mouthful. It is responsible for gathering data from scientists working across many countries' scientific programmes and then using this data to set fishing quotas in the southern oceans. South Georgia relies, to some extent on CCAMLR advice but also sets its own quotas below the level it advises to ensure a belt and braces approach.
One main advantage that South Georgia has over fisheries back home is that they have no electorate. The three or four people in charge of South Georgia's fisheries are scientists who have worked in this field for many years - and they are able to decide for themselves not only what is caught and in what quantity, but who catches it. This is important, because they are keen to promote best practice amongst fishermen and fishing companies - so it makes sense that they work with the best boats who have, therefore, an increased interest in supporting the conservation work. Anyone not towing the line risks not being able to fish in their waters, and as they have a patrol vessel, they can easily identify and stop offenders. The fact that they scuttled an offending trawler a few years ago tends to put people off...
One of the great unknowns here is what will happen when Argentina decides what is going to do in response. The Falkland Islanders are undertaking a massive show of patriotism at the moment - the Union and Falkland's flags are flying at every turn, and I have seen at least two land rovers painted in red white and blue...it is a sign that they are feeling isolated, which physically they are from the UK, but for the typical Falklander, the UK is just around the corner, and they feel a strong sense that they are as British as the rest of us.
Due to fly home later in the week - all being well I should be walking in the Langdales next week - getting my legs ready for a spring of hill walking! Keep in touch, Gerard