A shipload of New Zealand scientists are shown carrying out a census of the marine life of the Ross Sea in 2008, the International Polar Year. In trawl nets used to gather samples, one of the first creatures found was a toothfish, the target of both legal and illegal fishing. Since the late 1990s New Zealand has used aerial monitoring to track fishing in the Ross Sea, but while the ships involved could be tracked, the identity of those benefiting was usually hidden in various ways. So, for example, the Paloma V, linked to illegal fishing, was Namibian-flagged but thought to be owned by a Spanish company. New Zealand reported the ship to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources in 2008 as an illegal vessel.
Toothfish are just one Antarctic resource attracting attention; the possibility of substantial oil reserves below the Ross Sea was also the subject of international interest. The area is believed by some to hold one of the world's largest reserves, but investigation has been limited by physical difficulties and by the Antarctic's status as an area dedicated to scientific investigation. In the 1980s Antarctic Treaty nations proposed regulating mining. In the 1990s mining was banned by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid Protocol), which was to remain in force until 2048.
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Natural History New Zealand
Reference: Expedition Antarctica
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