Sad day for Southern Ocean as CCAMLR fails to agree on Antarctic marine protected area initiatives
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) today said the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources’ (CCAMLR) failure to deliver any marine reserves or marine protected areas (MPAs) for Antarctica’s Southern Ocean was deeply disappointing and means a redoubling of effort will be needed to ensure that it can deliver on its commitment to establish a system of marine protected areas.
For the second time ever, CCAMLR has agreed to hold a special intercessional meeting in July 2013 in Germany, where all relevant science regarding the MPAs under consideration must be provided. A number of countries participating in the meeting expressed strong disappointment at the failure to make progress at this year’s meeting.
“The world has been watching CCAMLR this year in order to ensure it would agree on significant Antarctic marine protection but all they have achieved is an agreement to meet in six months time,” said the AOA’s Steve Campbell. “CCAMLR members failed to establish any large-scale Antarctic marine protection at this meeting because a number of countries actively blocked conservation efforts.”
Campbell noted that the United States, European Union, France, Australia, New Zealand and others worked hard over the two-week meeting to propose a workable way forward, but said that “all member nations must now take responsibility for ensuring this international body delivers on its commitment to establish a network of MPAs and no-take reserves in the Southern Ocean, albeit later than its promise to do so in 2012.”
“Today I am feeling sad and angry,” said Jim Barnes, Executive Director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC). “My first CCAMLR meeting was during the negotiation of the Convention in 1980 and I have followed its evolution since. CCAMLR has prided itself on being in the forefront of marine conservation but this year has been unable to honour important commitments. This responsibility, and this failure, rests with all Members.”
“WWF has directly supported years of scientific work to underpin rational MPA creation in the Southern Ocean,” said WWF’s Paul Gamblin. “There was no good scientific reason to delay the Ross Sea and East Antarctic MPAs this year. The special meeting in 2013 must be the last word on these proposals. Then the work must continue on the rest of the MPA network. Time is slipping away.”
“This year, CCAMLR has behaved like a fisheries organization instead of an organisation dedicated to conservation of Antarctic waters,” said Farah Obaidullah of Greenpeace. “If there is a glimmer of hope to be pulled from the ruins today, it is in the redoubling of the commitment to create marine protected areas expressed by most CCAMLR members. The question now is whether countries like Russia, China and the Ukraine will come to the next meeting prepared to meet their conservation commitments.”
"This is a resounding disappointment for the conservation of the Ross Sea and East Antarctica, and for science,” said Gerry Leape, senior officer at the Pew Environment Group. “In 2011, participating countries agreed to work together to protect and conserve the unique marine life that thrives in the ocean surrounding Antarctica. Instead, they are heading home and leaving the door wide open to unchecked commercial fishing in these special areas.”
CCAMLR, made up of 24 countries and the European Union, has been considering proposals for two critical areas in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean at their meeting, including 1.6 million square kilometres of protection for the Ross Sea, the world’s most intact marine ecosystem, and 1.9 million square kilometres of coastal area in the East Antarctic.
“The AOA and all of the 30 organisations that we work with will redouble our efforts over the next year to ensure that CCAMLR lives up to its commitment to build a system of Antarctic marine reserves and marine protected areas that protect these pristine regions for future generations,” AOA’s Steve Campbell said.
The AOA’s research has identified over 40% of the Southern Ocean that warrants protection in a network of large-scale marine reserves and MPAs based on conservation and planning analyses, and including additional key environmental habitats.
Antarctic marine ecosystems are under increasing pressure. Climate change is affecting the abundance of important food sources for penguins, whales, seals and birds, and growing demand for seafood in Europe, North America and Asia coupled with significant overfishing and depletion of fish populations elsewhere means greater interest in the Southern Ocean’s marine resources.
Public support for Antarctic marine protection has grown significantly over the last year with more than 30 international environmental organizations convening and amassing more than 1.2 million calls for large-scale protection. The AOA is made up of 30 international organisations including the Pew Environment Group, WWF, Greenpeace, and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) and many others from countries including China, Korea, Russia, Norway, New Zealand, the US and the United Kingdom.