Hopes for the creation of a vast new marine sanctuary, MPA in Eastern Antarctic were dashed when a summit held in Sydney last week failed to reach agreement. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was expected to reach agreement on a treaty to oversee the protection and sustainability of the Southern Ocean. However, Russia and China held out, expressing concern that treaty compliance would effect their fishing rights. All 24 CCAMLR member countries and the European Union must reach consensus for the treaty to pass. (photo – fotolia.com)
Greenpeace fights to protect Antarctic
Calling this another missed opportunity, Greenpeace called for “greater vision and ambition” in the coming year, stating that they would renew their efforts to create the largest Marine Protected Area on Earth. The Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary would cover roughly .7 million square miles (1.8 million square kilometers) or five times the size of Germany and protect marine wildlife including whales and penquins in the Weddell Sea, adjacent to the Antarctic peninsula.
This comes as welcome news after the devastating recent news of the deaths of thousands of Adelie penquin chicks in the Antarctic. (photo – lovelyanimalsblog)
“Over the next 12 months we have an opportunity to make history: to create an Antarctic Ocean sanctuary which would be the largest protected area on Earth,” said Frida Bengtsson, director of Greenpeace’s Antarctic campaign. “Ocean sanctuaries not only protect incredible wildlife like whales and penguins, but they ensure healthy oceans which soak up carbon dioxide and help us to tackle climate change.”
The proposal for the Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary was submitted by Germany and the European Union for consideration in 2018 by all the governments responsible for the management of the Antarctic marine environment (CCAMLR).
Recent Successes in Creating Marine Protected Areas
Last year the Ross Sea marine sanctuary was adopted, as reported in our Blue Ocean article: Major Victory for Protection of the Ross Sea Hope Spot. And huge marine protected areas were created recently in the Pacific see: Rapa Nui Marine Park, one of world’s largest MPAs. Plus similar calls for a protected reserve in the Arctic, see: Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary Needs Your Help. (photo – John Weller)
Antarctic Wildlife is Under Acute Pressure
“From great blue whales to vast colonies of Emperor and Adélie penguins, Antarctic wildlife is already under acute pressure from climate change and now industrial fishing vessels are vacuuming up the tiny shrimp-like krill which Antarctic life relies upon,” said Bengtsson. “The fishing industry simply can’t be allowed to expand their operations and steal food from threatened penguins and whales. We now have a unique opportunity to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“We have just 12 months to create the largest protected area on Earth. With almost half our planet made up of waters outside of national borders, and an urgent global need for more large ocean sanctuaries, governments now need to show greater vision and ambition to protect what belongs to us all.” (photo – Amos Nachoum, Big Animals)
Protecting 30% of the World’s Seas is needed!
Alex Rogers, of the University of Oxford adds, “If we’re going to avoid the worst effects of climate change and protect biodiversity we need to safeguard more than 30 percent of our oceans and the Antarctic is a fantastic place to start. Threats to the Antarctic are increasing, such as climate change and pollution, including from plastics and fishing. Creating large marine reserves can allow these ecosystems to remain in a fully diverse and functional state. Furthermore, the importance of Antarctic ecosystems in sequestering carbon is only now being realized. There is a narrow window of time for governments to work together to protect the oceans, so the time for action is now.”
Greenpeace is now working with scientists to gather the data necessary to support their proposal for the creation of an MPA in Eastern Antarctic, including John Hocevar’s research aboard a two person submarine in these Antarctic waters.
“The pace of action at intergovernmental meetings is not keeping up with how quickly our world is changing,” said Hocevar. “We are going to Antarctica to build enough public support that world leaders realize they need to take action now.” Read more in EcoWatch.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
See these additional, related Blue Ocean Posts on MPAs
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