Our Far South voyage to highlight pristine ocean under threat



Posted on 09 February 2012  | 
Wellington, New Zealand - Our Far South, a voyage to Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic Islands, will set sail tomorrow (Fri 10 Feb) to highlight the global importance of this last great unspoiled wilderness and the urgent need to protect it from growing human-made threats.

WWF-New Zealand’s marine advocate Bob Zuur will be joining scientists and other Antarctic experts for the month-long voyage organised by philanthropist Gareth Morgan, seeking to raise awareness of the area and inspire people to speak out to protect this vital marine ecosystem.

Bob Zuur will blog regularly on the expedition’s progress throughout the month-long voyage, and can be followed here. Regular web updates will also appear on WWF New Zealand’s website and via Facebook and Twitter (hashtag #ourfarsouth).

Bob Zuur said: “Antarctica’s Southern Ocean is famed for its majestic isolation and magnificent wildlife including Emperor penguins, Albatross, Ross Sea Killer whales and colossal squid. It is also of global importance to humanity.

“Antarctica is a critical laboratory for the study of climate change, and in a rapidly warming world it is vital we paid heed to the story it tells.”

Far away, so close


The Southern Ocean’s Ross Sea, which lies about 3500 km from New Zealand at the edge of the Antarctic continent, is renowned by scientists as one of the most significant remaining large marine ecosystems with its top predators still intact.

WWF will be using the voyage to highlight the growing threats facing this important polar region, which include overfishing, tourism, shipping and climate change. Mining and oil exploration also pose potential future threats to the region.

“This almost pristine marine environment will not stay this way for long unless there is a coordinated international effort to protect it. Current measures are not enough to stem the tide of human activities that threaten this great southern wilderness,” said WWF’s Marine Programme Manager Rebecca Bird.

“By creating a network of Southern Ocean marine protected areas we can help fish stocks and other species – from sea bed crabs through krill to giant whales – recover. The Ross Sea shelf, slope and wider region should be designated a marine reserve, and we urge the New Zealand Government to play a central role in international negotiations around Antarctica later this year.”

The New Zealand Government is a signatory to the Commission to the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) which will meet in Hobart in October. WWF will be advocating for a strong international commitment to protecting most, if not all, of the Ross Sea.

Emperor penguin colony of adults and chicks after snow storm Dawson-Lambton Glacier, Antarctica.
Emperor penguin colony of adults and chicks after snow storm Dawson-Lambton Glacier, Antarctica.
© Fritz PÖLKING / WWF Enlarge
WWF New Zealand's marine advocate Bob Zuur on the Auckland Islands
© Bob Zuur Enlarge
More than 200,000 Antarctic blue whales used to live in the Southern Ocean – but 20th Century whaling decimated this population and latest estimates put this population at just around 2,300 animals.
More than 200,000 Antarctic blue whales used to live in the Southern Ocean – but 20th Century whaling decimated this population and latest estimates put this population at just around 2,300 animals.
© naturepl.com/Mark Brownlow/WWF Enlarge

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