October 29, 2012

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The United States and New Zealand have put forward a joint proposal that would create a 1.6 million km2 no-take protection area in the Ross Sea located in the Southern Ocean. For the proposal to be accepted, it must be supported by all members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) currently meeting in Hobart, Tasmania.

“Debate will be robust at the CCAMLR meeting this week among key parties, including fishing nations, and there is no guarantee of success,” said Stephen Campbell, the director of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, a group dedicated to increased protection of the Southern Ocean.  “The devil will be in the detail of what Delegates agree to support.”

Public backing for increased protection of the Southern Ocean has been building over the last year and has reached new levels in the past month. In the last week, members of CCAMLR have been meeting behind closed doors about the fate of the ocean surrounding Antarctica, but global media coverage has brought increased awareness and urgency to the issues they are discussing.

The Southern Ocean has made top headlines with over 1.2 million individuals, a large group of non-governmental organizations, and many world leaders all demanding increased protection of the Southern Ocean at the same time as the CCAMLR meeting.

Members of CCAMLR will make the final decision on increased protection of the Southern Ocean, and more specifically on the proposal for joint US and New Zealand Ross Sea protection, this week. The ultimate decision should be announced at the close of the meeting in Hobart this Thursday. With the continued media coverage and increasing number of signatures on petitions circulating for increased Southern Ocean protection, one thing is clear — the world is watching as world leaders decide on laws and regulations that will affect the fate of one of the most pristine and arguably important places on Earth.

Top photo: (c) ianduffy

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