(Photo: Rodolfo Werner)
Antarctic Wildlife Research Fund: 2nd call for project proposals
Closing date 17th June 2016
Since the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was first agreed in May 1980, it has been incumbent upon Members to conserve Antarctic marine living resources, whilst also allowing rational use, which has so far been taken to mean sustainable fishing. Under this Convention, fisheries management must therefore prevent any fishery-induced change to the marine ecosystem, or minimize the risk of any such change, that is not potentially reversible over two to three decades. Therefore, when making decisions about potential management actions, CCAMLR must take into account the state of available knowledge (1) see Convention text.
The commercial fishery for Antarctic krill is currently managed under a series of measures that, though thought to be precautionary, are not yet fully founded upon scientific evidence especially given the rapidly changing environment in the Antarctic Peninsula region and the rapidly changing nature of fishery operations. Therefore, CCAMLR has initiated a programme of work that it is hoped will develop a feedback management approach, using decision rules to adjust selected activities (including for example, the distribution and level of krill catch) in response to the state of monitored indicators, while maintaining a precautionary approach and taking into account spatial and temporal ecosystem structure.
In undertaking such a programme of work, CCAMLR has recognised that monitored indicators might be used to: (i) provide advance warning about the potential risks of fishing and to advise on requirements for further precaution and/or focused future research and monitoring investments; (ii) adjust catch limits and the spatial distribution of catches; and (iii) characterise long-term changes in the ecosystem to facilitate strategic decision making. However, CCAMLR has also recognised that there are many knowledge gaps relating to relying upon indicators to provide such advice.
The Antarctic Wildlife Research Fund (hereafter AWR) wishes to contribute to and further support the work of CCAMLR so that the Antarctic krill fishery is managed in a sustainable manner consistent with the precautionary approach detailed in the Convention text. The aims of the AWR (2) have therefore been developed to be consistent with the work of CCAMLR.
It is envisaged that any research and monitoring work supported by the AWR will build, incrementally, towards a new management approach for the krill fishery. Funded work should therefore support, rather than replace, the work of CCAMLR. In developing research proposals for consideration by the AWR, it is hoped that projects will be collaborative in nature, including between scientists from different CCAMLR Members and/or between scientists and krill fishing companies.
Each grant will be for a specific piece of work, and no long-term commitment to any individual or group should be assumed. The AWR is competitive and only proposals that are judged to provide excellent science (3) and to fit the aims of the Fund will be considered. Applicants should ensure that their proposals are cost effective. Where appropriate, the track record of project proponents will be taken into consideration. All proposals should be presented on the official project application form (4).
In supporting the development of a feedback management approach for the krill fishery, the AWR wishes to fund work that will increase understanding about how the Antarctic marine ecosystem operates and how it might be characterised by a set of indicators for use by managers. Such work might involve desk or field studies to fill critical knowledge gaps or provide early warning signals about future ecological change. For the current round of funding USD$ 200,000 is available. It is unlikely that all of this amount will be awarded to a single project, though this may be possible for a particularly compelling proposal. Successful proposals might generally expect to receive in the order of USD$ 50,000 to USD$ 100,000.
Critical knowledge gaps that might be preferred in the 2nd call for project proposals could include:
- Based on small-scale studies, krill biomass is known to fluctuate, but it is thought to have remained stable without any apparent large-scale trend since the mid-1990s. However, largely due to the logistic complexity and associated costs, no large-scale field surveys for krill have been undertaken in areas used by the fishery since 2000. Therefore, enhancing understanding within CCAMLR about how newly available acoustic data collected from fishing vessels, autonomous remotely operated underwater vehicles or from fixed mooring buoys might be used to provide information about intra- and inter-annual changes in krill distribution and abundance, particularly in those areas preferred by the fishery, is important. Studies showing how these new acoustic datasets might be used by CCAMLR, is a key issue for management.
- Related to this, enhanced understanding within CCAMLR about the meso- and large-scale movement of krill in oceanographic currents is of critical importance for the implementation of CCAMLR’s feedback management strategy. Movement of krill across a variety of scales is thought to be one of the major factors maintaining the operation of the Antarctic marine ecosystem and foodweb connections across a range of space and time scales and across a variety of trophic levels. However, information on the movement of krill is limited. Projects modelling the movement of krill should seek to inform the development of feedback management approaches, highlighting connectivity between spatial and temporal scales of relevance to predators and the fishery.
- Within Area 48, the Bransfield Strait is a key area for krill harvesting. Indeed, Subarea 48.1 has been closed in the last three years because catches have reached the spatial sub-allocation of the catch trigger level. The Bransfield Strait is also a site where there are high levels of overlap between krill-dependent predators and the fishery, especially during autumn, but with increasing overlap earlier in the penguin breeding period. Therefore, studies exploring the temporal change in krill abundance before, during and after harvesting in the Bransfield Strait would help management.
- Enhanced understanding within CCAMLR about the relationship between krill availability and predator performance is important, especially as it is likely to be a key element in any feedback management approach. Although relationships between krill and certain predators have been studied at some locations, relationships between predator foraging and breeding performance, krill availability and fishery activities, remain poorly resolved. Diet variability, together with other breeding and/or foraging performance parameters, may also be of importance as some predators have different diets in different geographic locations or during different times of the year. Consequently, these and other factors can lead to complex relationships between krill availability and predator performance. Projects exploring these relationships should seek to inform the development of feedback management approaches.
Other projects, including analyses of historical information from the krill fishery, may be considered where they match closely with the aims of the AWR. Such projects should seek to inform the development of feedback management approaches.
Applicants should give details about the proposed start and end dates of any proposal. Applicants should also provide specific dates by which outputs and products from the research will be produced. Successful proposals should preferably start as soon as possible; desk-based components for any proposals should commence before 1 January 2017, while any fieldwork should commence in the 2016/2017 field season.
Dr PN Trathan
Chair of the Antarctic Wildlife Research Fund Scientific Advisory Group. 5 January 2015
- Antarctic Wildlife Research Fund - Scientific Research Plan
- Antarctic Wildlife Research Fund - Science Advisory Group
- Antarctic Wildlife Research Fund - Project Proposal Application Form