CCAMLR’s approach to the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources is defined by Article II of the Convention.

From the principles outlined in Article II, two central concepts have evolved to guide CCAMLR in carrying out its management responsibilities, namely:

(i) Management strives to follow a ‘precautionary’ approach. This means that CCAMLR collects the data it can, then weighs up the extent and effect of the uncertainties and gaps in such data before making a management decision.

The approach aims to minimise the risk of long-term adverse effects rather than delaying decisions until all necessary data are available.

(ii) Management also follows an ‘ecosystem’ approach. Ideally, this takes into account all the delicate and complex relationships between organisms (of all sizes) and physical processes (such as currents and sea temperature) that constitute the Antarctic marine ecosystem.

Obviously, this is a difficult task, which is compounded by the Southern Ocean’s size – approximately 35 million square kilometres.

CCAMLR’s ecosystem approach therefore not only focuses on regulating fishing for certain species, it also aims to ensure that fishing does not impact adversely on other species that are related to, or dependent on, the target species.

For example, while krill harvesting is regulated and monitored directly, CCAMLR also endeavours to monitor the effect which harvesting may exert on species that either eat krill or which are themselves eaten by krill predators (see CEMP).

CCAMLR therefore seeks to preserve the ‘health’ of the ecosystem by setting conservative (i.e. precautionary) krill catch limits to take account of the needs of associated species and to preserve the ecological sustainability of all the species concerned.


Given the inherent complexities of the ecosystem approach, it is not surprising that fisheries management organisations have largely ignored ecosystem concerns and have tended to concentrate on regulating species being targeted by specific fisheries.

CCAMLR’s pioneering work on the precautionary and ecosystem approaches has been recognised as setting the benchmark for fisheries management organisations around the world.

Constable, A.J., de la Mare, W.K., Agnew, D.J., Everson, I. and Miller, D. (2000). Managing fisheries to conserve the Antarctic marine ecosystem: practical implementation of the Convention on the conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). ICES Journal of Marine Science, 57: 778-791.