At the 35th meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, member countries agreed to protect 1,550,000 km2 of the Ross Sea by establishing:
● 1,117,000 km2 of fully protected marine reserve;
● a 110,000 km2 special research zone (SRZ) allowing for limited research fishing for krill and toothfish, and;
● a 322,000 km2 krill research zone (KRZ) allowing for controlled research fishing for krill.
“The Ross Sea has been described as the one of the most pristine wilderness areas left on Earth”, said Chris Johnson, WWF-Australia Ocean Science Manager.
“It is home to one third of the world’s Adélie penguins, one quarter of all emperor penguins, one third of all Antarctic petrels, and over half of all South Pacific Weddell seals.
Today’s agreement is a turning point for the protection of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Over 1.5 million km2 is to be set aside for conservation - an area the size of France, Germany and Spain combined - with over 70% of it as fully protected marine reserves.
“This is important not just for the incredible diversity of life that it will protect, but also for the contribution it makes to building the resilience of the world’s ocean in the face of climate change”.
“While this is undoubtedly good news, the agreement on the Ross Sea will expire in 35 years.
According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) guidelines, marine protected areas must be permanent. WWF has concerns that the Ross Sea agreement does not meet this standard” said Mr Johnson.
In coming years, WWF will continue to push for the Ross Sea to become an MPA protected in perpetuity.
“We are optimistic that after years of deadlock at the annual CCAMLR meeting, today’s decision will spark renewed momentum for CCAMLR members to achieve permanent protection for the Ross Sea in coming years and also deliver marine protected areas in East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea”, said Mr Johnson.
WWF’s Tracking Antarctica Report (PDF 6MB), released last week at CCAMLR, listed a lack of progress on marine protected areas as one of the biggest issues of concern for the future of the Antarctic due to the slow response by CCAMLR to incorporate climate change explicitly in management frameworks and increasing interest in fishing for krill.
WWF congratulates the members of CCAMLR such as Russia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States among others who came together to support this outcome. WWF also congratulates the many conservation organizations who have been working towards increased protection of Antarctica and Southern Ocean waters, for years, if not decades..
For more information contact
Daniel Rockett WWF-Australia Senior Manager News and Public Affairs. DRockett@wwf.org.au, +61 432 206 592
Chris Johnson WWF-Australia Ocean Science Manager +61 437 226 011
About WWF and Antarctica
WWF helped to achieve a ban on mining on Antarctica as well as helping establish the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. In terms of marine protection, back in 2002 WWF helped create large marine reserves around Macquarie Island, and Heard Island and McDonald Islands, and in 2006 supported the first bioregionalization of Southern Ocean waters.