Protecting Antarctica and the Southern Oceans

Geographical location:

Antarctica > Antarctica and S. Ocean General

Asia/Pacific > Australia/New-Zealand > Australia

Iceberg, Pleneau Bay. Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctica.
© WWF-Canon / Sylvia RUBLI

Summary

The Antarctic region is one of the most pristine wildernesses left on the planet. However, it is facing a number of threats, such as overfishing, pollution and climate change. WWF is working in this region to address these problems through a series of measures, including the introduction of a network of marine protected areas and encouraging the sustainable use of fisheries.

WWF also supports the Convention on Conservation of Antarctic and Marine Living Organisms and the Antarctic Treaty System, which provide a basis for the conservation of biodiversity in Antarctic and Southern Ocean. The key to their success depends on nations cooperating with a common purpose to manage sustainable fisheries, shipping and tourism that co-exist with wildlife and a healthy sea.

Background

Despite its harsh environment and remote location, Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is the source of life for some of the world’s most awe-inspiring organisms including charismatic mega-fauna. One species in particular, krill, underpins the entire Antarctic ecosystem feeding all of the large southern hemisphere whales as well as seals, penguins and seabirds.

Beyond the geographic region itself, the Antarctic has a pivotal role in the global climate system and is key to understanding the impacts of global issues such as climate change.

An effective counter needs to be developed against countries that view the region largely as a new fishery and will oppose effective implementation of conservation measures. Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fisheries also remain a significant threat and need to be addressed through international law, port-state controls, surveillance and enforcement.

Climate change is also affecting the region and invasive species pose a significant threat to species, including seabirds.

Objectives

- A network of MPAs covering at least 10% of the 20 million km2 Southern Ocean.

- Climate change impacts on Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems are well understood and effective adaptation measures are implemented.

- The impact from IUU fishing is no longer a significant threat to marine ecosystems in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) area.

- Fishing in the Southern Ocean does not threaten marine ecosystem functioning and services; fish stocks and ecosystems are stable and not over-exploited.

- Southern seabird populations have stabilised and started to recover and an adequately representative sample of Southern Ocean islands will be free from pests; global and national plans for bycatch mitigation need to be implemented across the whole range of Albatross species.

Solution

With a concerted and coordinated global effort, there is considerable potential to achieve major conservation goals in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean region, in particular the establishment of the world’s largest network of MPAs, the conservation of the great whales, seabirds and other marine life of the region, and the sustainable use of fisheries resources for future generations.

The Convention on Conservation of Antarctic and Marine Living Organisms (CCAMLR) and the Antarctic Treaty System provide a powerful basis for the conservation of biodiversity in Antarctic and Southern Ocean. The key to success in this initiative is obtaining public and political support for the effective operation of CCAMLR and its conservation measures.

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