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Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica © Michael Harte

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica © Michael Harte

Crunch time for Southern Ocean protection

18 Oct 2015

Keywords
  • antarctica
  • climate change
  • fisheries
  • marine protected areas
  • marine species

Hobart, Australia – Representatives from 24 countries and the European Union will converge on Hobart, Australia this week to discuss two important proposals to protect critical areas of ocean wilderness around Antarctica. 
 
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) will consider for the fifth time the fate of two key proposals for marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica, after previously committing to a system of MPAs by 2012.
 
Together the two proposals would ensure the conservation of globally important ocean habitats for species like whales, penguins, seals and seabirds, provide research opportunities and increase the Southern Ocean’s resilience to climate change.
 
“The objective of the Commission is the conservation of Antarctic marine resources to ensure that human activity in the Southern Ocean does not come at the expense of Antarctic wildlife,” said Bob Zuur, Manager of WWF’s Antarctic Program.
 
“So far the Commission has done a good job of managing fishing activity in the Southern Ocean but it needs to deliver on its commitment to create a system of marine protected areas.
 
“We call on delegates to fulfil their promise to provide marine protection in areas such as the Ross Sea and around East Antarctica to show that the Commission is not just about fishing.”
 
The proposal for a marine protected area in the Ross Sea includes large no-take areas across ecologically important habitats but leaves other areas open for a commercial toothfish fishery and future krill fisheries.
 
The East Antarctica MPA proposal takes a different approach. Activities, including fishing, will be allowed provided they do not impact on the conservation or scientific objectives of that MPA.
 
“Both proposals are consistent with the conservation objectives of the Commission, although it is disappointing that the proposed marine protected areas have been reduced significantly in size,” Mr Zuur said.
 
“Most marine protected areas worldwide are permanent, including the one created by the Commission south of the South Orkney Islands, and so we are disappointed that the proposals include fixed terms as a further compromise.
 
“Since 2012, the Commission has promised to deliver protection of critical areas for wildlife and the planet. The Antarctic Treaty was signed at the height of the Cold War and dedicated the continent to peace and science. We urge members to act in the spirit of the Treaty, put aside differences, and protect these important areas.” 
 
CCAMLR meets in Hobart from Monday 19 October to 30 October, when decisions about the two proposals are expected to be announced. 
 
WWF-Australia Media Contact: 
Daniel Rockett, National Media Manager

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