Friday, 16 May 2008

Antartica pollution and exploitation

The situation illustrated shows the effects of increased shipping in the Antarctic.

The model shows how the combined effects of fishing, the exploitation and hunt for resources, tourism and research exploration are contributing to an increase in shipping in the area. Overcrowding is leading to accidents. The ships traveling these distances have supply needs, and this brings more ships (feedback loop).

The ships store heavy fuel oils and this poses a risk. The oil and other cargo can be released during accidents – the frequency of which is increasing as the number of ships rises. Ships also consume the fuel, a process which releases both sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide. This, coupled to the potential accidents, is releasing increased pollutants in the Antarctic.

The ships have other polluting effects. Notably, they create sewage and grey water waste, and also carry alien species into the region from their points of origin.

Over fishing of the region is another major negative factor. It arises from multiple causes – whaling, the pet industry and the pharmaceutical industry etc. This is driving a new form of fishing, an aggressive vacuuming of krill from the sea. This consumption of krill and shrimp is itself a danger because other fish depend on krill in the food chain. Birds and other wildlife in turn depend on the fish.

As a result of this situation, it has therefore been proposed that the following goals are pursued. The goals are indicated in the model:

  • To give to the Antarctic a “world park status”. This would counteract both the number of ships visiting the area and limit fishing by humans.
  • To create a register of Antarctic vessels. This record would be required in order to enforce any treaty, such as the potential introduction of requirement and regulation governing the strengthening of ship’s hulls. These measures would counteract the impact of accidents when they occur, since there would be less chance of the release of oils and other pollutants carried onboard the ships.

The model shows that there is a useful side effect of accidents, which is to raise public awareness, leading to a strengthening of lobby groups which could bring the necessary regulations into being. Additionally, tourism brings more ships to the region, but also helps to educate and raise awareness.

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