The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), adopted in 1980, is often presented as a standard for responsible and precautionary fisheries management. The precautionary principle forms the basis of the objectives for the Convention. Almost 40 years on it is time to pose the question: has the Convention been successful in achieving its objective of conserving Antarctic marine living resources? And has the precautionary principle been applied? This paper reviews the efforts of CCAMLR in implementing its objectives through the eyes of conservationists. It concludes that while CCAMLR has made some significant advances, it has struggled at every step, and currently faces strengthening pressure from some of its Members to abandon both its conservation-based objective and the precautionary principle altogether for a more ‘evidence-based’ fisheries management approach.