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Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) diving, Ross Sea, Antarctica © National Geographic Creative / Paul Nicklen / WWF

Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) diving, Ross Sea, Antarctica © National Geographic Creative / Paul Nicklen / WWF

Global leaders miss opportunity to protect Antarctic wildlife

04 Nov 2019

Keywords
  • krill
  • antarctica
  • climate change
  • marine protected areas
  • marine species
  • protected areas
  • whales
A bid to create huge marine sanctuaries and protect oceans in East Antarctica has fallen short, but the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia remains hopeful that progress can be made to preserve the region’s wildlife.

Members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) were unable to reach an agreement on the proposal at their annual meeting in Hobart last week.

Backed by Australia and the European Union led by France, the proposal would have delivered a network of marine protected areas to preserve habitat for whales, penguins, seabirds and krill.

A new report by WWF highlights that human-caused warming is destroying sea ice habitat in the Antarctic, threatening the survival of many iconic polar species, such as whales, penguins and krill.

“The science is clear - Antarctica is being impacted by the climate crisis. The region has lost more sea ice in just four years than the Arctic did in the last 34 years. Scientists recommend implementing networks of marine protected areas to respond to climate change in our ocean to safeguard whales, penguins and krill,” said Chris Johnson, Senior Manager, WWF Antarctic program.

“Unfortunately in Hobart it was increasingly clear that keeping access to fishing open is more important than delivering on the core mandate of conservation.”

While CCAMLR members failed to reach a consensus on marine protected areas for the eighth consecutive time, Mr Johnson said there was still hope with small progress being made behind the scenes.

“We have discussed opportunities for the Australian Government to help deliver an innovative network of ocean sanctuaries around Antarctica and it was pleasing to see Environment Minister Sussan Ley voice Australia’s support to protect this vast wilderness leading into CCAMLR,” he said.

In another positive sign, the krill fishing industry committed to continuing its seasonal closures of areas along the Antarctic Peninsula at CCAMLR.

“Although we did not get agreements on marine protected areas this year, we still have time to make history,” said Mr Johnson.

“The largest and last wilderness on the planet needs our help. Creating sanctuaries will benefit both people and nature. WWF will continue to work hard calling on all governments to honour commitments to protect nature – there’s still time to make a difference.”

About CCAMLR:

Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established in 1982 with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life. CCAMLR is comprised of 26 member states including the EU and meets yearly in Hobart, Australia.

About WWF and Antarctica:

WWF helped to achieve a ban on mining on Antarctica and helped establish the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. WWF has also helped create large marine reserves around Macquarie Island, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, and in 2006 supported the first bioregionalization of Southern Ocean waters. WWF was a crucial part of establishing the Ross Sea MPA in 2016.

For more information about our conservation work in Antarctica visit: https://www.wwf.org.au/antarctica

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