Careers, Jobs and Education Resources for: Southern Ocean

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A large body of recent oceanographic research has shown that the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), an ocean current that flows from west to east around Antarctica, plays a crucial role in global ocean circulation. The region where the cold waters of the ACC meet and mingle with the warmer waters of the north defines a distinct border - the Antarctic Convergence - which fluctuates with the seasons, but which encompasses a discrete body of water and a unique ecologic region. The Convergence concentrates nutrients, which promotes marine plant life, and which in turn allows for a greater abundance of animal life. In the spring of 2000, the International Hydrographic Organization decided to delimit the waters within the Convergence as a fifth world ocean - the Southern Ocean - by combining the southern portions of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. The Southern Ocean extends from the coast of Antarctica north to 60 degrees south latitude, which coincides with the Antarctic Treaty Limit and which approximates the extent of the Antarctic Convergence. As such, the Southern Ocean is now the fourth largest of the world's five oceans (after the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Indian Ocean, but larger than the Arctic Ocean). It should be noted that inclusion of the Southern Ocean does not imply recognition of this feature as one of the world's primary oceans by the US Government. (from the CIA)


Economic Overview

Fisheries in 2005-06 landed 128,081 metric tons, of which 83% (106,591 tons) was krill (euphausia superba) and 9.7% (12,364 tons) patagonian toothfish (dissostichus eleginoides), compared to 147,506 tons in 2004-05 of which 86% (127,035 tons) was krill and 8% (11,821 tons) patagonian toothfish (estimated fishing from the area covered by the convention of the conservation of antarctic marine living resources (ccamlr), which extends slightly beyond the southern ocean area). international agreements were adopted in late 1999 to reduce illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which in the 2000-01 season landed, by one estimate, 8,376 metric tons of patagonian and antarctic toothfish. in the 2006-07 antarctic summer, 35,552 tourists visited the southern ocean, compared to 29,799 in 2005-2006 (estimates provided to the antarctic treaty by the international association of antarctica tour operators (iaato), and does not include passengers on overflights and those flying directly in and out of antarctica).

Environmental Issues

Increased solar ultraviolet radiation resulting from the antarctic ozone hole in recent years, reducing marine primary productivity (phytoplankton) by as much as 15% and damaging the dna of some fish; illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in recent years, especially the landing of an estimated five to six times more patagonian toothfish than the regulated fishery, which is likely to affect the sustainability of the stock; large amount of incidental mortality of seabirds resulting from long-line fishing for toothfish note: the now-protected fur seal population is making a strong comeback after severe overexploitation in the 18th and 19th centuries


Body of water between 60 degrees south latitude and antarctica


Total: 20.327 million sq km note: includes amundsen sea, bellingshausen sea, part of the drake passage, ross sea, a small part of the scotia sea, weddell sea, and other tributary water bodies

Slightly more than twice the size of the us

International Disputes

Antarctic treaty defers claims (see antarctica entry), but argentina, australia, chile, france, nz, norway, and uk assert claims (some overlapping), including the continental shelf in the southern ocean; several states have expressed an interest in extending those continental shelf claims under the united nations convention on the law of the sea (unclos) to include undersea ridges; the us and most other states do not recognize the land or maritime claims of other states and have made no claims themselves (the us and russia have reserved the right to do so); no formal claims exist in the waters in the sector between 90 degrees west and 150 degrees west

Sources: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

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