a1 H.T. Harvey and Associates, 983 University Avenue, Building D, Los Gatos, CA 95032, USA (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recent analyses of anthropogenic impacts on marine systems have shown that the Ross Sea is the least affected stretch of ocean on Earth, although historical effects were not included in those studies. Herein the literature is reviewed in order to quantify the extent of extraction of biological resources from the Ross Sea continental shelf and slope from the start of the 20th century. There was none before that time. An intense extraction of Weddell seals Leptonychotes weddellii by the expeditions of the ‘heroic’ period and then by New Zealand to feed sled dogs in the 1950–1980s caused the McMurdo Sound population to decrease permanently. Otherwise no other sealing occurred. Blue whales Balaenoptera musculus intermedia were extirpated from waters of the shelf break front during the 1920s, and have not reappeared. Minke whales B. bonaerensis probably expanded into the blue whale vacated habitat, but were then hunted during the 1970–1980s; their population has since recovered. Some minke whales are now taken in ‘scientific whaling’, twice more from the slope compared to the shelf. Other hunted cetaceans never occurred over the shelf and very few ever occurred in slope waters, and therefore their demise from whaling does not apply to the Ross Sea. No industrial fishing occurred in the Ross Sea until the 1996–1997 summer, when a fishery for Antarctic toothfish Dissostichus mawsoni was initiated, especially along the slope. This fishery has grown since then with effects on the ecosystem recently becoming evident. There is probably no other ocean area where the details of biological exploitation can be so elucidated. It appears that the Ross Sea continental shelf remains the least affected of any on the globe. However the same cannot be said of the slope.
(Received March 2009)