Breaking the Vicious Cycle

             Not even a month ago people all around the world were celebrating Japan’s end of whaling in the Southern Ocean. My last article warned that folks were celebrating far too soon and that Japan will waste no time to try to resume their whaling efforts. Honestly I thought they’d wait a bit longer than 3 weeks, but over a meal of whale, they tried to renew their efforts for whaling in Antarctic waters in 2015.
              The Minister of Agriculture said that this refurbished plan would be more sustainable – with less whales (250 as opposed to 950) being slaughtered, with actual scientific samples being taken. Never mind that these samples could be taken without killing the whales. But other than that, there was not much detail in their announcement.
              This goes to show that it is important not to monitor Antarctic fishing – but to not allow it altogether. Antarctica used to be the last pristine environment on Earth. The Southern Ocean, until recently, had remained the same temperature for thousands of years. This allowed animals to not change, live for decades where in other environments they live for a few years, and create an environment not found anywhere else on Earth.
              Now, thanks to increased fishing and climate change, the Southern Ocean has become a place that we most need to protect. Humans are burning the candle at both ends. We are killing apex predators – the Antarctic Toothfish (more commonly known as Chilean Sea Bass) so now that there’s hardly any of them being found. We are also over-fishing the base of the Antarctic food chain – krill. Literally everything in Antarctica depends on krill – fish, penguins, seals, whales – and even humans since if krill are left in the ocean they act as a carbon sink.
              On December 1st, 1959, world leaders did mainland Antarctica a big favor by signing the Antarctic Treaty which protected the land from exploitation. Only scientific activities can be carried out on Antarctica. No one can own the continent. They failed to extend the treaty to the ocean.
             For the last few years countries have met to try to create a marine sanctuary around Antarctica. These efforts have been repeatedly blocked by China, Russia and the Ukraine. They’ve tried decreasing the size of the marine sanctuary to conciliate the countries, but they still resist. The fishing and reaping of the Southern Ocean still continues.
              The exploitation of the Southern Ocean will continue as folks will never realize the importance of this ecosystem to the rest of the world. The Southern Ocean essentially mixes the rest of the currents of the world as it gyrates around the Antarctic continent. It is often “the forgotten ocean” being down there where few visit and experience.
              This Earth Day we need to create an awareness for the Southern Ocean and all that it does for us. We need to build a movement to demand that it be turned into the world’s largest marine sanctuary. If not, the vicious cycle of abusing it for our needs will continue.

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