Ocean Survey 20/20
Under current climate change predictions the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions are vulnerable, and research is needed now so that we can best understand how to protect these areas in the future.
An additional $11.1 million of government funding over three years was announced in May 2007 to provide for research into understanding more about the relationship between Antarctic marine ecosystems and climate change. This is part of the International Polar Year (IPY) programme that began in March 2007 and runs to March 2009, which will see a significant number of scientific research projects undertaken in both polar regions.
New Zealand carried out a Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML) survey during IPY, through February and March 2008, as part of the whole-of-government Ocean Survey 20/20 programme.
The IPY-CAML survey in the Ross Sea is New Zealand’s largest research programme running during IPY. The specimens and data collected during the eight week voyage will be analysed over the next three years. Species new to science will be confirmed and the biodiversity patterns in relation to the environment will be explored.
The Ross Sea is of particular interest to New Zealand Fisheries because the Antarctic toothfish fishery is a profitable aspect of our seafood industry. This work is also an integral part of our contribution to the Ross Sea Strategy, and supports our involvement with CCAMLR.
Funding of $5.2 million was also announced in 2007/08 for an inshore Oceans Survey 20/20 Project in the Bay of Islands. Planning with Land Information New Zealand, Department of Conservation and regional councils is underway.
The Chatham-Challenger Project
The other Ocean Survey 20/20 project that the Ministry has ongoing involvement in is the Chatham-Challenger project which compares benthic habitats and biodiversity on the Challenger Plateau and Chatham Rise.
The Chatham Rise, located to the east of New Zealand, is an important commercial fishing ground that has been fished extensively to 1,200 metre depths. To the west of New Zealand lies the Challenger Plateau, which is far less productive and has fewer commercial size fish. The Chatham-Challenger project seeks to assess whether these differences in productivity flow down to the benthic communities.
Analysis of the specimens and data collected during recent voyages will be analysed over the next three years to provide definitive results in 2010.