|John Weller: http://www.johnbweller.com/|
A new coalition of environmental and conservation groups, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA), called on the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting in Hobart this week to establish the world’s largest network of marine reserves in the oceans around Antarctica.
AOA’s proposal, building on the CCAMLR commitment to create a network of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, is to establish no-take marine reserves and MPAs in 19 ocean areas around Antarctica. That would establish the most comprehensive ocean protection regime of its kind on the planet. When launching the proposal, the AOA presented a map outlining key areas it recommends for protection, including the Ross Sea, Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea.
“If adopted, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance proposal would add to the land-based protection already in place for Antarctica to include the region’s unique ocean habitats as no-take areas—a lasting legacy for future generations,” said AOA Coordinator Steve Campbell at a launch reception for CCAMLR delegates and Antarctic experts.
“While still one of the most pristine environments left in the world, the ocean around Antarctica is fast attracting industrial fishing interests particularly for longlived toothfish and krill, which could have devastating impacts,” Campbell said. “At a time when climate change impacts are increasing, now is the time to ensure we protect the unique ocean environments around Antarctica.”
Also speaking at the AOA launch was Evan Bloom, head of the US CCAMLR delegation, polar explorer Eric Phillips, Chief Executive Officer at the Australia’s Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre Tony Press, and US oceanographer Sylvia Earle.
Sylvia Earle said by video address “I want CCAMLR to establish a comprehensive network of marine reserves in Antarctica as a legacy for all time.”
The AOA event was attended by more than 150 CCAMLR delegates and special guests in Hobart for the annual CCAMLR meeting.
AOA’s international member organisations are: Greenpeace, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), Mission Blue, The Last Ocean, Oceans Five, Forest & Bird and ECO (NZ) as well as associate members the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) and Oceana.
Discussions at the CCAMLR meeting last week highlighted that a number of the 25 member states wish to protect commercial interests in this fragile region, including the use of unsustainable fishing methods. “As CCAMLR has set a timeframe for a representative system of marine protected areas by 2012, there is now an unprecedented window of opportunity to protect these oceans before large-scale fishing takes its toll,” Campbell said.
Antarctica’s ocean environment is home to nearly 10,000 highly adapted species, many unique to the region including Adélie and emperor penguins, Antarctic petrels and minke whales, Ross Sea killer whales, colossal squid and Weddell seals.
About 70% of the Earth’s surface is ocean, yet less than 1% of it is fully protected from human development.
– Blair Palese, The Tasmanian Times
– Edited by Deb Castellana