Thoughts on CCAMLR
By Kat Vincent
7 December 2017
This year, I was lucky enough to attend the Thirty-sixth Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation for Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) at the beginning of October. The structure of the meeting is quite intensive – the entire meeting lasts for two weeks. The first week both the Scientific Committee (SC), and the Standing Committee on Implementation and Compliance (SCIC) meet, theoretically resolve all items on their agenda, which is then presented to the Commission meeting during the second week. All parties to the Commission send delegates and representatives to discuss old and new Conservation Measures, report on compliance with these Conservation Measures, discuss the designation of Marine Protect Areas (MPAs), fish stock assessments, and emerging scientific research in the Southern Ocean. In theory, this is how it is supposed to work.
What immediately became obvious as I was sitting in the SCIC meeting, is how difficult it is to get consensus decisions in a room full of people representing different countries, with sometimes competing priorities and differing cultural contexts.
Problem number one: oversight and management in a marine area that experiences such extremes is difficult in the first place, let alone ensuring compliance in what is essentially a voluntary agreement, with little teeth to it.
Problem number two: despite the big picture everyone here is a part of, it still just comes down to the people. People get tired. People get annoyed. People misunderstand things. People get low blood sugar. This makes continued negotiations extremely difficult and exhausting – which made the work of all the attendees I saw more impressive, as I observed how many of them managed to keep the overarching goal in mind as they discussed their issues.
Another thing I began to appreciate was the importance of implementation and compliance – previously, when talks of compliance come up in my place of employment or during my studies, I tended to not pay it too much heed, taking it for granted that of course proper compliance to policies or procedures would occur. But really, I’ve come to think of it as the most important element to the execution of any plan or policy. It is the actuality of everyone’s research, deep thinking, and hard work. You can have the most well-researched plan in the world, and have it completely undermined if the implementation of the plan is ill-executed, or not adhered to correctly. You need participant buy-in.
At the thirty-seventh meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources in 2018, I hope to see stronger engagement in the vision that informs the compliance for the Conservation Measures – that everybody attends in good faith, to further develop protections to the ecosystems and life that occur in the Antarctic Southern Ocean, while still enabling sustainable fishing practices.
Kat has volunteered with the Fenner Foundation for a year, and is currently undertaking her Masters in Climate Change at ANU, with an interest in water security, access and governance. She's had experience in coordinating a compunity water quality monitoring program, and reviewing intergovernmental agreements on water. In her spare time, Kat enjoys rock climbing, surfing, writing, and learning about sustainable design.