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Norwegian research cruise in the Antarctic

Norway is by way of becoming an important fishing nation in the Antarctic. The Institute of Marine Research's wide-ranging research cruise in winter 2008 will help to improve our understanding of the Antarctic ecosystem, so that marine resources there can be taken care of just as well as we already manage our stocks in the Arctic.

In its home waters, Norway manages living marine resources according to the internationally accepted precautionary principle, which means that all fishing should take place on the basis of scientific studies and advice, with the aim of conserving stocks. The less we know about a particular stock, the more conservative should be the level of harvesting.

Sustainable management in the south too?

The  Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is responsible for the management of marine resources in the Southern Ocean. Our knowledge of the ecosystem in this part of the sea is very limited. However, we do know that krill are key species in the ecosystem, and the annual catch quota of four million tonnes of krill set by CCAMLR is intended to ensure that this fishery will in no way compete with other species that depend on krill.

CCAMLR intends to allocate krill fisheries in parts of the Southern Ocean where their predators do not graze. However, before we can do so, we need much more knowledge about the ecosystem, the krill itself and the species that live off it. While we wait for such knowledge to be generated, an “effort limit” of 620 000 tonnes has been set, which is to say that until we possess more knowledge, fishing will be stopped when this limit has been reached.

This is why the Institute of Marine Research has taken the initiative of sending the R/V G.O. Sars to study the Antarctic ecosystem. The pelagic resources around the Norwegian Bouvet Island have never been investigated, and in winter 2008, the Institute will carry out its first studies of physical conditions, marine resources, including krill, and the pelagic resources of this region.

Special international effort

The planned cruise is taking place as part of the International Polar Year (March 2007 – February 2008). Research in the polar regions demands special, and highly expensive, logistical efforts, and studies of this kind still bear a certain expeditionary character. The coordinated international effort represented by the Polar Year will produce results that are several times as valuable as the individual contributions of the nations involved, because everyone can draw on the results obtained by all the partners.

The studies of the Institute of Marine Research will be carried out in collaboration with the Norwegian Polar Research Institute, the Universities of Bergen and Oslo, the Simrad company, the Census of Antarctic Marine Life and experts from the USA and China.

R/V G.O. Sars will also be the platform on the whole trip from Bergen to the Southern Ocean and back for other Norwegian and international research institutions that are participating in the International Polar Year in the fields of climate, ocean circulation and biology.