At a time when record areas of ocean are being protected around the world, the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) took a small but important step towards establishing marine protected areas around Antarctica.
With a million square miles of highly-protected ocean declared in 2015 alone, WWF today acknowledged the Commission’s progress toward consensus on the establishment of an important marine protected area in the Ross Sea.
Although consensus was not reached in time before the end of the meeting this year, the door is now open for further negotiations to occur next year to protect areas in the Ross Sea and to catalyse progress in East Antarctica.
“The Southern Ocean is arguably the most important ocean in the world, being critical to the world’s climate and providing homes for wildlife found nowhere else on the planet,” said Bob Zuur, manager of WWF’s Antarctica and Southern Ocean initiative.
“At a time when more of the world’s oceans are being protected than at any other, it was good to see renewed optimism about the establishment of a marine protected area in the Ross Sea at the eleventh hour of the meeting.
“The Southern Ocean still remains vulnerable but we expect important areas to be protected next year when the Commission meets again.”
The Commission, which is made up of 24 nations and the European Union, has considered the proposals for marine protection in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica five times over the past four years after previously committing to a system of marine protected areas by 2012.
Together, the two proposed marine protected areas are meant to ensure the conservation of globally important ocean habitats for species like whales, penguins, seals and seabirds. Marine protected areas are also important for scientific research and increasing resilience to climate change.
WWF expressed concern that Commission members could not agree on other important conservation measures this year, such as special areas for scientific study following the collapse of iceshelves.
“The Antarctic Peninsula is the fastest warming place in the Southern Hemisphere, and globally only matched by warming in the Arctic,” Mr Zuur said.
“However, the Commission could not agree on making climate change considerations a requirement in all future Commission papers.”
WWF will continue working in key countries to help progress discussions between CCAMLR member nations so that that the Southern Ocean can be afforded the protection it needs.
“Member nations have worked together successfully in the past to address rampant overfishing, illegal fishing and seabird bycatch,” Mr Zuur said.
“We are very hopeful that in 2015, when the Commission meets again, members will act in the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty, put aside their differences and provide effective marine protection for this globally-important ocean wilderness.”
WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Charlie Stevens, Senior Communications Specialist