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Chapter Two: The State of the Environment - The Antarctic

Marine and coastal areas

The Southern Ocean, defined as those waters south of the Polar Front or Antarctic Convergence, represents approximately 10 per cent of the world's oceans. In strong contrast to the Arctic basin, relatively little of this area is permanently covered by ice. Instead vast areas are subject to a strongly seasonal ice cover which forms in winter and melts the following spring. This seasonal ice zone includes all of the areas of continental shelf and slope around the Antarctic continent. The box on page 178 describes the status of sea ice in the polar areas.

The Patagonian toothfish, Dissostichus eleginoides, is being severely overfished

As with previous eras of exploitation, fisheries have the potential to cause serious impacts on the marine ecosystem. The CCAMLR regime, with its ecosystem focus, should be able to prevent this. However, recent evidence of large-scale overfishing of the Patagonian toothfish, Dissostichus eleginoides - through illegal, unreported and unregulated activity - in the Convention area has caused serious doubts about the efficacy of the regime, the sustainability of the fishery, and the state of the ecosystem. For the period 1 July 1996 - 30 June 1997 the reported legal catch of Patagonian toothfish in the entire Convention area was 10 245 tonnes (97 per cent of the total finfish catch) whereas the illegal, unreported and unregulated catch was estimated at 107 000-115 000 tonnes from the Indian Ocean sector of the Convention area alone (CCAMLR 1998).


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