Peter Young, the director and producer of The Last Ocean, traveled to the Ross Sea on a Russian icebreaker with Colorado nature photographer John Weller to film and photograph the wildlife in late 2006 (Weller had recently read a paper about the importance of the Ross Sea by world-renowned Antarctic ecologist, Dr. David Ainley). Since the initial film trip Peter has traveled the world filming interviews with scientists and the campaign as it evolved.
In June 2009 Peter Young co-founded the Last Ocean Charitable Trust to advocate for full protection of the Ross Sea. In early 2011 the Trust built The Last Ocean website and worked on creating a credible presence within the New Zealand media and political circles.
During this time the Trust worked closely with several NGOs and government funding agencies to raise funds to complete the film. This was achieved through donation, personal investment and grants from the NZ funding agencies NZ on Air and the New Zealand Film Commission.
The film premiered at the New Zealand International Film Festival on 1 August 2012 where it sold out theatres throughout the country. It also had a small general release before playing on PRIME TV in New Zealand on 2 October 2012.
The Ross Sea
Located approximately 3000 miles south of New Zealand, the Ross Sea is the most productive area of the Southern Ocean. It is home to many species found nowhere else and has all its top predators intact, including whales, seals, large fish, penguins and other seabirds. US Ecologist Dr. David Ainley, who has been studying in the Ross Sea for more than 40 years, describes it as a ‘living laboratory, a place that can teach us about the workings of all marine ecosystems’.
While the land of Antarctica is protected under a global treaty signed more than 50 years ago, the governance of the oceans around Antarctica allows for the rational use of a living resource. In 1996, the New Zealand Government encouraged a major New Zealand fishing company to explore the Ross Sea. They found Antarctic toothfish, a lucrative catch that is sold as Chilean sea bass in up-market restaurants around the world. As word got out, that one boat from New Zealand grew to near on 20 from a dozen different countries and they were permitted to take more than 3000 tonnes of Antarctic toothfish every year. However, the Antarctic toothfish is a top predator in the Ross Sea and if taken in significant numbers, the natural balance of the last pristine marine ecosystem on Earth will be lost forever.
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established by international convention in 1982 with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life and is the international organization that provides governance over the oceans surrounding Antarctica, including the Ross Sea. It comes under the umbrella of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) and currently comprises of 25 nations, each with a vested interest in Antarctica. Like all bodies working under the Antarctic Treaty System, CCAMLR’s decision-making process operates under consensus.
CCAMLR is based in Hobart, Australia and meets annually in November to make decisions on the seas around Antarctica.
Members of the Commission currently include 24 States and the European Union: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Korea, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, UK, USA and Uruguay.
In November 2012 the US and New Zealand governments put forward separate proposals for a Marine Protected Area in the Ross Sea. At that meeting the US and NZ representatives came to an agreement on a joint proposal, but the Commission failed to reach a decision. CCAMLR then called for a special meeting in July 2013 in Bremerhaven, Germany to again consider proposals for two MPAs in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica, but failed to reach a consensus at this meeting. The proposals were blocked for a third time by Russia and Ukraine in November 2013. Twenty-two nations and the EU now back the proposals, and discussion will resume in November 2014.
The Last Ocean Road Trip
The Last Ocean Road Trip was our 2013 international push in the campaign to have the Ross Sea, Antarctica declared a marine reserve protected area. Peter and the Last Ocean team attended film screenings at independent film festivals throughout the US, listed on our ‘Watch the film’ page. During the trip Peter held Q & A‘s, successfully lobbied supermarkets to stop selling Antarctic toothfish caught in the Ross Sea and asked consumers not to eat it. (Antarctic Toothfish is marketed as Chilean sea bass throughout North America and parts of Europe).
We managed to raise enough funds to allow Peter to travel on to the UK, Europe and Germany to hold special screenings ahead of the CCAMLR Special Meeting in Bremerhaven.