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Why Peter Young and his “Last Ocean” Travellers are Hypocrites

Why Peter Young and his “Last Ocean” Travellers are Hypocrites

Why Peter Young and his “Last Ocean” Travellers are Hypocrites

Why Peter Young and his “Last Ocean” Travellers are Hypocrites

Peter Young used to plunder and exploit fisheries with no regard for their sustainability. Then he was “born again”. Sometimes there is nothing worse.

I admire his current campaign to “lock up” the Ross Sea region so there is no fishing there at all. In fact I’d like huge tracts of the world to be similarly “locked up”, not just those that guys like Peter and I and you don’t access ourselves so we can take the high ground like ecological priests.

Now let’s get real.

If just one of the countries that belong to CCAMLR were to adopt the stance of The Antarctic Oceans Alliance or Peter’s Last Ocean then we will very quickly see all the toothfish taken from the Ross Sea. That is ecological vandalism as we are seeing with whaling. And here’s the reason. CCAMLR requires all 25 members of CCAMLR to agree on a policy for it to be adopted.

A blanket ban of toothfishing is simply not going to be agreed to so the consequence is we will get no agreement and it will be open season. That would be terrible. This is precisely what happened when the Green Extreme influenced Australia to the extent that it opposed all whaling. No agreement to lower limits was possible so the Japanese carried on and now we have other nations lining up to resume whaling.

What I find totally unacceptable is Peter and others in the Green Extreme are aware of this as the likely outcome, yet still the press on with their inflexible position. We are risking annihilation of the toothfish as a consequence of their intransigence. It is totally irresponsible.

The business of sustainability is serious, balancing ecological protection with human economic and social development is what societies have to do continually. But alas, the skill of a cynical film maker’s agenda to manipulate public opinion to suit his own ends, knows no bounds. Peter is a great cameraman, no doubt and we should all doff our caps to that particular skill. But a great cameraman does not a balanced analyst make.

I’ll make it quite clear. If Peter Young really believed the line his movie spins, he would be aghast at the practices around the New Zealand coast, he wouldn’t be wringing his hands in mock despair about the Ross Sea, he’d be making noise about just how deficient the management of our own fisheries here are. We don’t even take a “whole of ecology” approach when setting catch limits. By contrast CCAMLR does when setting the limits on the toothfish take.

As they say, people in glasshouses shouldn’t biff things. But hey, let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good movie project.
Peter and his mates need to respond to the following;

  • The toothfish fishery is highly rated by the Marine Stewardship Council, a joint venture between WWF and the fishing industry. Indeed more highly rated than any NZ fishery. Could he please outline precisely why the MSC is wrong on toothfish?
  • NIWA, the science institutes of other CCAMLR countries and the science panel of MSC are all doing science on this fishery. Why is their science not credible please? And further why are the observations of a couple of guys pole fishing through a hole in the ice apparently “science”? Yeah right.

Playing fast and loose with a serious issue like capping the exploitation of a fishery, all for the sake of promoting a film project, in my book isn’t far short of playing environmental roulette. The hypocrisy is even deeper given the silence on how bad our own fisheries management is.

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UPDATE – Response to questions..

Geoff asked me a question on Facebook (see below) which I wanted to respond to but It was a little too long for Facebook…

Geoff wrote: “Gareth – are these scientists you referred to the same ones you described as refusing to put their research up to scrutiny when in fact it was just completing peer review and is now published in a reputable journal?”

In reply….

Hello again Geoff,

I’m not sure what scientists or reputable journal you’re referencing as you’re not explicit. All I can tell you is what we were referring to and what your group has been championing for over four years now. It is a paper entitled: “Decline of the Antarctic toothfish and its predators in McMurdo Sound and the southern Ross Sea and recommendations for restoration” by A.L. DeVries, D.G. Ainley and G. Ballard (USA) (WG-EMM-08/21) was submitted in 2008 to the Working Group on Ecosystem Monitoring and Management (EMM) held in St Petersburg, Russia between 23 July to 1 August 2008.

That 2008 group comprised 35 scientists from 11 countries, of which eight were from the United States of America (from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the National Science Foundation – Office of Polar Programs). The 2008 Working Group reviewed the paper as submitted and also a letter authored by 25 Antarctic scientists. The findings of the meeting are presented in full below.

6.22 WG-EMM-08/21 also presented daily sightings of killer whales from a lookout at Cape Crozier on Ross Island during December and January of each year from 2003 to 2007, and noted that killer whales have become infrequent since January 2006. Lastly, the paper presented data on the proportion of P. antarcticum in the diet of Adélie penguins since 2003/04, noting that the proportion of P. antarcticum in their diet in 2007/08 was the highest in the 5-year time series presented and was similar to 1996/97. On the basis of these observations, the authors concluded that the fishery has caused a trophic cascade at McMurdo Sound. The paper recommended that the catch limit in the fishery be reduced, including a moratorium on the shelf, until the McMurdo Sound toothfish population is restored and a program is in place to monitor ecosystem effects of the fishery.

6.23 WG-EMM-08/20 was a letter authored by 25 Antarctic scientists in regard to WG-EMM-08/21 on the decline of D. mawsoni from McMurdo Sound. They express concern that this is the first sign that the Ross Sea ecosystem is being irreparably altered, and that several extensive time series of unequalled climate records and responses of the biota to climate change are in jeopardy of being compromised. They state that five time series each extending for more than 40 years have been ‘blindsided’ by the impacts of overfishing. The time series include annual counts of Adélie and emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri), benthic community composition and growth, Weddell seal demography, and toothfish prevalence as indicated by scientific catch rates. The paper recommended a steep reduction in the catch limit in the fishery, including a moratorium on the shelf, until the McMurdo Sound toothfish population is restored and a program is in place to monitor ecosystem effects of the fishery.
General discussion

6.24 The Working Group identified several inconsistencies in WG-EMM-08/21 which required further elaboration by the authors:
(i) The authors noted that they have caught 4 500 fish over a 30-year period (1971–2001), implying an average catch of 150 fish per year. This is inconsistent with the claim that total captures once numbered 200–500 fish per year before exploitation started.
(ii) The authors also claimed that they chose 1987 as a ‘typical year in catch results’ for the pre-exploitation period. However, as shown in Figure 6 of the paper, the catch in that year was 412 fish – this is not a typical year if the average was only 150 fish.
(iii) There were several other inconsistencies in the text. For example, the caption to Figure 7 states that 10 sets were made in 2001 – however, a total of 29 sets were reported for 2001 in Appendix 2 of the paper. Also, the paper stated that in 1996/97, vessels fished off Cape Crozier for long periods (page 12); however, in that year, the first year of the exploratory fishery, the total catch of toothfish was 6.25 The apparent decline in toothfish catches coincided with a change in the scientific fishing location. Although the authors state that catch rates were similar before and after the change in fishing location, not enough detail is presented to determine whether this is the case. Furthermore, although the text says the new site was only 0.5 km from the original site, this is not consistent with the scale on the map shown in Figure 4 of the paper or with it being a distance of 4 km from McMurdo Station. The physical and environmental features of the two sites with respect to bottom depth, current, substrate, temperature, distance from the edge of the fast-ice etc. should also be provided. Commercial catch rates are very dependent on fishing location, therefore it would be surprising if this was not the same for a research fishing site.

6.26 In considering the above issues, the Working Group was unable to adequately assess the conclusions of the paper at the current time. It requested the authors to provide the following historic data on:
(i) the location, number of sets, number of hooks, number of fish caught, soak-time, and CPUE (number of fish per set) by day, month and year for all years since sampling started in 1971. Other details such as weight of fish caught, fate of fish (e.g. kept, released, tagged) and bait used each year would also be useful;
(ii) the length-frequency distribution – perhaps grouped over 2- or 3-year intervals;
(iii) specific details of the two sites with respect to bottom depth, current, substrate, water temperature, distance from the edge of the fast-ice etc.

6.27 The Working Group also noted that the evidence for a switch in Adélie penguin diet was rather weak. Although the highest percentage of P. antarcticum in the diet occurred in 2007/08 (55%), the lowest percentage of P. antarcticum in the diet had occurred the previous year (32%). The Working Group further recalled that research carried out by Emison in the 1960s suggested that the annual proportion of P. antarcticum in the diet of Adélie penguins ranged from 40–60% (Emison, 1968).

Rather than dismissing DeVries’ findings as unscientific and incomplete which really they could have, this group of internationally recognised scientists reviewed the paper (a comprehensive form of the peer review), and found that due to inconsistencies and lack of information that they were unable to adequately assess the conclusions of the paper and requested that the authors (including DeVries and Ainley) provide specific information in order to facilitate an assessment and recommendation.
As you’re well aware the science has moved along considerably since 2008 including surveys being done continually as is required by the Marine Stewardship Council for example, let alone required under CCAMLR itself. Scientists from NIWA, amongst others are engaged in this work.

Geoff I’m sure the latest research you refer to (whether it’s a rework, update or elaboration of the DeVries original or some new stuff) will have been eagerly received by the CCAMLR science group – anything that actually adds to the knowledge around this fishery is most welcome, that’s the nature of science. And of course should it credibly point to a conclusion that “no-take” is necessary to sustain the fishery then of course that should be what CCAMLR and MSC would recommend.


  • Peter Langlands

    Gareth science does not save fisheries- our history with deep water fisheries in NZ shows that science is ignored. In many parts of the World the best studied fisheries are the most damaged- Go figure ! Also if the toothfish fishery was sustainable they would be able to fish the exact same areas over a number of years with no significant reduction in the mean size of fish caught !- has this happened ?

  • Raven Walters

    Same old same old isn’t it?..First in best dressed and tomorrow be damned!!..We can show our kids pictures of how it used to be!!..Just like we do now!!..Look son, that’s a whale!!!,once you’d see them every year buy the 100′s passing our coastline while migrating..I think they do tourism charters if you’d like to see one in the flesh,but no guarantees..Money verses conservation..1,2,3 and money wins again hands down..Never underestimate greed!!,it comes in many forms and speaks with a forked tongue

  • Renée Habluetzel

    The diplomat who opened the Ross Sea to fishing supports Peter Young’s stance.

  • Kantilal Patel Qsm Jp


  • Geoff Keey

    Gareth – are these scientists you referred to the same ones you described as refusing to put their research up to scrutiny when in fact it was just completing peer review and is now published in a reputable journal?

  • cindybax

    So there’s nothing worrying about Clive Evans and the toothfish scientists who caught ONE fish in their normal fishing grounds last year?  

  • Ashlée Hooper

    Gareth, I think you’re wrong on this. Where growth and sustainability are in contention with one another, the argument reduces to a matter of subjective values and it’s intellectually dishonest to attempt to portray this as a matter of right vs. wrong.

  • Brian Franks

    You sure know how to punish your credibility. The Happy Feet escapade v’s your stance on toothfish v’s Auckland Islands is suggesting more about ego than caring and contradicts the good work you do. I feel you are confused.

  • Ruakaka Beach

    Do you have shares in the fishing industry Gareth?

  • PeterTaylor

    Gareth, you are not addressing the argument. It is not about sustainable toothfish fishing, it is about leaving one marine ecosystem intact, for the same conservation reasons that we have national parks. There is no mining or harvesting in innumerable national parks around the world or in Antarctica itself. Right there you have practical examples of both “extreme” conservation and unanimous international cooperation on land. It is not such a great step to suggest it could be achieved in one remote ocean. 
    Not sure why you have to bitch-slap Peter Young with the suggestion that he is only interested in promoting his film project. I am sure the guy could find less financially ruinous ways of promoting his film talent.

  • enviromarine

    Hi, I agree with Peter Taylor, but also need to add that your comments about “use it or loose it” are a “tragedy of the commons”. (look it up if you unsure what this means!)
    History has taught us that over fishing a mono species leads to not only its extinction but also gravely effects the entire eco system in which the said species lived. In this case it is an Apex predator and loosing this species would lead to other species below it on the food web, to multiply and possibly cause terrible damage to the Southern Ocean. You also mentioned that you are against “acid build up in our oceans”, making species of fish extinct adds to the acid rise in the oceans. 
    You also drive around the world like a hoon on a motorbike that is polluting the atmosphere no end.
    You state that you help other nations poor, why don’t you help the victims of Christchurch? there are still 1200 people with no water or toilets…
    Before you mouth off to the world that NZ scientists are full of crap – take a look at yourself first! 
    I welcome your feedback…

  • Mayne Tayne

    the system is flawed. Sustainability be dammed, capitalism is the master of the day..

  • skybluemonk

    Don’t think labelling anyone extreme “whatevers” helps and  we need to get beyond name calling Gareth. You have a sharp mind and often well thought out positions on things of importance. I take notice but your quickness to name calling as so often is done in other areas like the climate debate causes me to wonder about your argument.
    Your parallel argument to Whaling is weak. Countries that have been pro-whaling are still pro-whaling there’s not some new queue you can blame on Australian Greens and Australian Government opposition. You I’m sure will admit the scientific whaling argument is a scam and is not defensible. Neither can the right to indiginous whaling be ramped up to support commercial whaling in the twenty first century. If there is an economic argument for countries to continue whaling I’m sure you could argue it. I don’t think there is one. 
    Seems to me the Whaling argument that has largely been established is that the Whaling Industry has brought many species if not most species of whales to brink of extinction or certainly endangered. That argument is finding its way into the world fishing industry generally.  What fishing is left in the North Atlantic? Or any northern latitude ocean for that matter. Its the great southern ocean was not  exploited till  the last 100 years or so thats the new resource to plunder. With the lack of northern fisheries this has accelerated. Yes, we in NZ need to hold our hands up and question our  practice  within our own economic zone. Is it sustainable never mind Green?  
    Perhaps an approach along the lines of the International Whaling Commission is required for  management of our ocens resources.
    Maybe CCAMLR or the MSC is the vehicle but if ,as in some ways you say you would like to see Southern ocean conservation, how will that evolve unless there is that level of debate made. Knocking it back as not politically feasible gets us no where. Hells teeth we wouldn’t have the right to vote and blacks would still be picking cotton!
    But seems your argument is with the science. True a scientist who’s studied these fish for 30 years and now can only catch one in his ice hole is not major statistical evidence. But unless he’s lying its indicative  of a potential problem. We have no science that explains these fish. Where they breed how they breed what numbers rate of breeding, major predators other than us etc etc. Haven’t we learned by now that’s a bloody dangerous position to be in. We are basing our quotas on assumptions. That’s not good science. I’m sure you wouldn’t advocate it as a basis for good economics.
    Now there is the Marine Stewardship Council and it does seem like they are attempting to place some controls around the fishing industry. That’s to be applauded. I went looking for their science Seems as far as the toothfish is concerned what we have is a “hypothesis” on its life cycle.
    and I’ve tried to make sense of the CCAMLAR statistical bulletin 2012. This would take extensive study by an admittedly more trained and sharper mind than mine to understand how  their data . But looks to me that they catch twice as much toothfish outside the convention area year on year. What does that mean in terms of quotas set I wonder and for the lauded MSC control. I was trying to just focus on Ross Sea which is difficult.
    So I don’t think MSC are wrong about tooth fish just it seems to my cursory glance they are as much in the dark as anyone else. What we do know and that does seem to be monitored well is the volumes of catch and that’s increasing at a high rate. The definition of its sustainability is based on the ” facts” the MSC has  in tern deduced from  its scientific hypothesis about this species. All the other science i could find was simply that this fishing is exploratory and that it will aid them in estimating the bio mass of stock.
     Now doesn’t that mean as in the example of the Whaling Industry that when we start catching less of them there must be a problem. Yeah for science! Sorry I do believe we can do better than that if we try. 
    Making the Ross Sea a protected area wont affect all the other fisheries in the Southern Ocean and it seems the majority of catch doesn’t come from there anyway. It may do wonders for the ecology of the Southern Oceans to carve off a small piece, an “insurance policy” if you like and in doing so start to ask some serious questions.

  • Raymond Jones

    Jeez you have a bee in your helmet about this guy and Greenies. Your example of Whaling /greenies is just pure wrong. no queue was always case of outsiders. Only question is will Japan stay or go. Where is the science on toothfish. MSC have a hypothesis their quote. Making Ross Sea a sanctuary wont put much of a dent in Southern Ocean fisheries. See their catch stats. But could be a valuable resource for the World. Take a deep breath Garth you are full of good ideas and fine analysis but this seems to have caught you on a bad hair day.

  • Les Hedges

    Saw this programme last night you are right on the button Gareth

  • Gareth Morgan

    Hi Geoff, I was replying to your question above, but it was getting long. Here is a reply

  • Geoff Keey

    Thanks Gareth. The research has been published in the journal Fish and Fisheries as: Decadal trends in abundance, size and condition of Antarctic toothfish in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, 1972–2011
    David G Ainley, Nadav Nur, Joseph T Eastman, Grant Ballard, Claire L Parkinson, Clive W Evans & Arthur L. DeVries. The work had actually completed peer review when you wrote that these authors were refusing to expose their work to scrutiny. I’d encourage you to engage with them rather than just throw insults around.

  • Gareth Morgan

    Excellent Geoff – I see it was published last month in the June 2012 issue, some 4 years after the original work was rejected and is a rework of the work that the science committees found too error prone. Better late than never of course and I’m sure the science community will welcome it for consideration as it does all peer reviewed work. Will be great to see what knowledge it actually adds.

  • Mayne Tayne

    haha by the time they get the science right there will be nothing left to study..Gotta feed those 7 billion potential consumers.. Seems like science is a tool and the people with the most “science” and the right campaign eat toothfish… for now

  • enviromarine

    Gareth, you are asking people for their opinion and recommendations. I know of three scientists as well as myself , who have commented on both you facebook page and on here. We have given our opinion - albeit against what your right wing fascist thinking is based around. Then tell me why you have removed the voice of opposition to yourself? Are you like Mr. Key, that you thrive on only good things to say about yourself?  Advice: you are an economist, NOT a scientist. you have no idea what is going on in the Southern Ocean so stop pretending that you do. Stick to what you do best…ripping people off. 
    PS: have you given those poor people in Christchurch any toilets yet? The answer is no as you are all talk…

  • narena

    I appreciate the reference:

    “Decline of the Antarctic toothfish and its predators in McMurdo Sound and the southern Ross Sea and recommendations for restoration” by A.L. DeVries, D.G. Ainley and G. Ballard (USA) (WG-EMM-08/21) was submitted in 2008 to the Working Group on Ecosystem Monitoring and Management (EMM) held in St Petersburg, Russia between 23 July to 1 August 2008.

  • nickofnz

    @garethmorgannz @JustinFlitter @NikiSSchuck thanks for that.

  • Biggles

    Hang in there Gareth. Don’t fall off the bike and don’t you slip off the whale you ride around on enviromarine!

  • Biggles

    Hang in there Gareth. Don’t fall off the bike  and don’t you fall off the whale you ride around on enviromarine.

  • fauna

    “A blanket ban of toothfishing is simply not going to be agreed to so the consequence is we will get no agreement and it will be open season.”
    Where is the evidence for this alarmist statement?  You don’t know that will
    Climate change/global warming /ocean acidification and overfishing go hand-in-hand.  These issues need to be addressed concurrently.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.
    And name-calling/ stereotyping is not an argument — it just panders to the worst knee-jerk reactions of ignorant people — not one of the best Kiwi traits.

    • enviromarine

       @fauna Mr Morgan is embarasing the New Zealand people along with this government around the fishing industry.
      All you have to do is to look at the history of fishing to see how depleted  the worlds oceans are oh and that’s a FACT. Another FACT is that their are only a hand full of species in the Ross Sea down to the Antarctic so killing one of its “apex predators” is nothing short of a disaster.
      With this extinction comes more acidification of the ocean…i could go on but because the right wing fascists  cannot see sense…there is no point.
      Mr Morgan and this government will destroy one of the most important ecosystems on earth in the next two years unless we stop them.

  • ghostrider

    @enviromarine. There’s a fair bit to take issue with in your diatribe, but the one that prompted me to respond was the claim that Gareth is declaring NZ scientists to be crap. Gareth’s views on the Southern Ocean have been largely informed by NZ scientists, who so happen to be the same scientists who have informed the NZ government’s position on Marine Protected Areas in the Ross Sea region. Their data, and the argument they have framed from it, is that fishing is being conducted in a sustainable manner. This isn’t The Truth, but they make a strong case. The opposing view has a scientific basis, too, besides the more obvious emotional basis and the inductive reasoning. Those genuinely interested in the fate of this region will concentrate on the quality of the science. Scientists come in various different stripes: there are good scientists, and there are bad scientists. You can tell one from another by examining the quality of their data and their arguments from that data. So it pays to play the ball, not the man.

    • enviromarine

       @ghostrider I am not disagreeing with you about the scientist comments and findings. What if am very concerned about is who is paying for what research and what gains financially. 
      It is clear over the last 300 years of global plundering of the oceans that the natural disasters after another is evidence that we need to stop what we are doing. Police the Ross sea so no one else can fish there, then conduct some scientific research – independently from government. (and Billionaires who think they no it all!!) 
      Not only a natural disaster will occur from over fishing in the Ross sea, but it will become an economic disaster also…
      In 1992 when the collapse of the cod fishery off Newfoundland and the decision by Canada to impose and indefinite moratorium on the Grand Banks, is a classic example of the consequences of going to the final step of overfishing.
      Following the closure of much of Atlantic Canada’s cod fishery in 1992, the local communities – Labrador and Newfoundland suffered greatly. Almost 40,000 jobs were lost overnight, the cost to the Canadian economy was estimated at much as CAD$3.9 billion.
      The financial loss to this area is estimated to be CAD$280 million a year of potential earnings that would accrue from a “sustainable fishery”. This does not include the wider benefits to the local and national economy.
      I am not say that this argument here is anyway as big as the above example, but if the trend continues around our shores, then it is not IF this will happen – but WHEN it will happen!

      • ghostrider

         @enviromarine I agree with the point that the only reason we’re fishing the Ross Sea is because we’ve stuffed the rest of the world’s fisheries. But the present debate is about whether we’ve learned enough from our mistakes to fish sustainably. The pro-fishing side is that the Ross Sea fishery is an example of best practice in managed fisheries, and that the scientific work done tends to indicate stocks are holding up well. It’s therefore not directly comparable to the N Atlantic cod fishery, which is the poster child for unmanaged or poorly managed fishing. But like you, I’m worried that although the science presented to indicate that Ross Sea toothfish stocks are bearing up is impressive, it can’t offer complete reassurance. I’d hate the toothfish and/or any other part of this unique ecosystem to go the way of cod.
        But what to do? We can argue till we’re blue in the face that we should never have started fishing down there, but it won’t change the reality. The genie is out of the bottle: there is a demand for toothfish, and even if all the legal players (ie, those fishing under CCAMLR’s rules) pulled out, there are plenty of people willing and able to go there and fish anyway. The trouble is, if NZ pulls out of the Ross Sea and we no longer have an economic stake in monitoring what goes on down there, it’s pretty unlikely the NZ government will send Orions, fisheries patrol vessels etc to the region to police it. That just opens the door for the pirates, who don’t give a damn about the ecosystem. We’re almost stuck with fishing…
        I can’t see how you think Gareth benefits from fishing in the Ross Sea, either directly or indirectly, as you seem to imply he does. He’s definitely pro-fishing, but more for the reasons above, and more, I think, because he believes that fishing (like the exploitation of other resources) doesn’t have to be a strip-mining operation. CCAMLR’s approach to conservation mentions the principal of ‘rational use’, and I think Gareth believes this what we ought to aim for: scientifically sound management and exploitation of resources. I don’t think there’s anything in it for him personally.
        By the way, not sure how the collapse of the Ross Sea ecosystem would contribute to ocean acidification? I can see acidification aiding and abetting the collapse of the ecoystem, but if I’m missing something, let me know…

  • cindybax

    “So it pays to play the ball, not the man.”That’s rich, considering Gareth slags off all “greenies” who disagree with him! 

  • Biggles

    I recall Gareth (impudently) asking “since when was Sue Bradford a Green”. I suggest that (broadly)  hostility to Gareth comes from this direction.

  • ghostrider

    Nothing I said suggests I admire the way Gareth makes his attacks. If I’m being charitable, I can put it down to frustration at the amount of emotion that stands in for rational debate. If I’m not…