Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

NZ's Ross Sea efforts 'a disgrace', says discoverer's descendent

The Ross Sea in Antarctica. File photo / NZPA
The Ross Sea in Antarctica. File photo / NZPA

The great-great-great-granddaughter of the man who discovered the Ross Sea says the New Zealand Government is destroying her legacy by failing to protect one of the last intact marine ecosystems in the world.

British naval officer and polar explorer Sir James Clarke Ross discovered the sea in 1841.

There are tight regulations on fishing - including strict quota and reporting requirements on catch and bycatch - in Antarctica, which is still treated as an exploratory fishery.

But Ross's great-great-great-granddaughter Philippa Ross said the delicate environment was being threatened by government policies.

Earlier this month the Government rejected a proposal from the United States for a marine reserve that would have offered greater protection than New Zealand wanted for the Antarctic toothfish in the Ross Sea.

New Zealand companies take a large proportion of the annual Ross Sea toothfish catch - last year they landed 730 tonnes with an export value of $20 million.

The Herald understood the joint proposal was thwarted in Cabinet by ministers Gerry Brownlee, David Carter and Steven Joyce on the grounds it was not consistent with the Government's economic growth objectives.

Ms Ross emigrated to New Zealand from the United Kingdom nine years ago.

Her interest in the Ross Sea was sparked by a petition to save the area, and she started researching government policies that were affecting it.

"My legacy is the last intact marine ecosystem in the world - a treasure I had hoped the New Zealand Government would protect for its invaluable source of information to help scientists understand and sustain our ecosystem for future generations.

"To say I'm disappointed with their efforts is an understatement.

"They're a disgrace. A bunch of hypocritical two-face puppets who only appear to be interested in preserving the lining of their pockets.''

Minister of Science and Innovation Steven Joyce left for the US on the weekend to promote New Zealand's scientific expertise.

Ms Ross called the trip was "hypocritical''.

"We don't pay any bloody attention to what they (scientists) say. They (the Government) say it's OK to do this fishing and it's sustainable - well even the scientists don't know what's sustainable because nobody knows.''

- NZ Herald

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