Panel Paper: China's Increasing Role in Antarctic Marine Conservation in the Wake of U.S. Leadership Change

Monday, April 10, 2017 : 9:00 AM
HUB 269 (University of California, Riverside)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Frederick P. Hemans, University of California, San Diego

China’s increasing role in Antarctic marine conservation in the wake of U.S. leadership change

While the global impact of the United States’ 2016 election is yet to be determined, based on the incoming administration’s stated policy goals, it is almost a certainty that there is going to be a rollback of U.S. global leadership on environmental policy. While the Trump administration’s views on both domestic and international marine conservation are murkier in comparison to their open rejection of most domestic environmental protection policies, the prospects of future significant multilateral agreements in this area are increasingly marginal. There will undoubtedly be pressure on U.S. regional allies, most notably Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) participants Australia and New Zealand, to increase their roles in advocating for Antarctic marine conservation.

Recent successes in establishing marine reserves and limiting commercial fishing were made possible in part because of the advocacy of outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry in negotiations with roadblock nations such as China and Russia, within the framework of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources (CCALMR), the multilateral body overseeing Antarctic marine policy. Whomever eventually becomes the Trump Administration’s Secretary of State is highly likely to de-emphasize and neglect any agreements made by the previous administration, especially if these multilateral agreements were reached by offering concessions in other areas.

Despite their recent agreement to the establishment of the world’s largest Marine Protection Area (MPA) in the Ross Sea, China is gearing up for a massive push into the Antarctic waters still open for commercial fishing. China’s agenda for the region is in fact more concerning than those of Antarctic fishing rivals Russia and Finland, as market forces have pushed China to shift almost exclusively to the harvesting of Antarctic krill sub-species Euphausia Superba, and China has stated its intentions is to increase this harvest up to a factor of ten. Such activity at the proposed levels could quickly lead to a trophic crisis in the circumpolar region within our lifetimes.

This paper will present statistical models to show the potential trophic impact of krill harvesting activities if China proceeds unchecked in expanding their Antarctic presence. It will present the argument that additional leadership from the U.S. and regional allies Australia and New Zealand is key to building upon future multilateral agreements on conservation within the CCALMR, to protect one of the most sensitive marine ecosystems on the planet.