Antarctic Ross Sea protection hangs in the balance



Posted on 29 October 2012  | 
Hobart, Australia: The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA), of which WWF is a member, has welcomed news of a joint US and New Zealand Ross Sea protection proposal as a key foundation for a network of marine protected areas and reserves in the Southern Ocean but warned it will have to be supported by all members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to be successful.

“Debate will be robust at the CCAMLR meeting this week among key parties, including fishing nations, and there is no guarantee of success,” said AOA’s director Stephen Campbell. “The devil will be in the detail of what delegates agree to support for both Ross Sea and East Antarctic marine protection.”
 
The AOA has called for 3.6 million km2 of Ross Sea habitats to be protected based on current scientific research. The US-NZ proposal provides 1.6 million km2 of no-take protection areas, which Campbell said is “clearly substantial and could become the largest marine reserve in the world, assuming CCAMLR agrees to it.”
 
All CCAMLR members must still agree to the US-NZ Ross Sea proposal and therefore success hangs in the balance.

"In recognition of its commitment to create a system of marine protected areas by 2012, WWF bestowed CCAMLR with a 'Gift to the Earth', two years ago. This is WWF's highest honour and we call on all nations at CCAMLR to live up to their commitment. 2012 is the year to create the Ross Sea and East Antarctic marine protected areas. There is no reason for delay." said Paul Gamblin, WWF spokesperson. 


The AOA said environmental organisations are concerned about the concept of ‘light fishing’, reported in today’s media, and where this may occur in the Ross Sea. If specific areas are not protected, including critical Ross Sea habitats, the proposal would fall short of what scientists say is needed to protect key ecosystems in the most pristine ocean left on earth.
 
Today’s media has reported that the period of agreement for the proposed marine protected area remains open to negotiation, but may be indefinite.

“The AOA urges that marine protected areas should remain in place for generations to come and not be re-opened on a whim by one country,” Campbell said. “It is vital that any proposal provides enduring protection for the most important places.”
 
Public support for Antarctic marine protection has grown significantly over the last year with more than 1.2 million people signing onto calls for large-scale protection. “It is crucially important that CCAMLR reaches agreement on effective proposals for the Ross Sea and East Antarctica. The world is now watching and at the close of the meeting this Thursday, they will be expecting a real result.”

Iceberg, Antarctic Ocean
© Wim van Passel / WWF-Canon Enlarge

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