Missed opportunity to protect Antarctic wildlife on the brink | WWF

Missed opportunity to protect Antarctic wildlife on the brink

Posted on 27 October 2017
Adelie Penguins, Antarctica.
© David Ainley
In a blow for biodiversity in East Antarctica, the member states of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) failed to implement protection for wildlife and establish a new marine protected area (MPA) in East Antarctica.

States attending the 36th meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart could not reach an agreement on a proposal led by Australia and France with the EU for a MPA for East Antarctica. The proposal was a push to create a vast marine sanctuary in East Antarctica, building on the success of landmark deal secured last year for the Ross Sea at the annual conservation summit.

There are more than 9,000 species in the pristine waters around Antarctica. A MPA would secure a future for the wildlife and marine biodiversity in the region, including Adélie penguins.

“Earlier this year a colony of over 18,000 pairs of Adélie penguins in Terre Adélie, Antarctica, suffered a catastrophic breeding failure with only two chicks surviving. It was the second breeding failure in just four years” said Chris Johnson, Senior Manager, WWF-Antarctic programme.

Surviving mostly on a diet of krill, a small shrimp-like crustacean, Adélie penguins are generally faring well in East Antarctica, but declining in the Antarctic peninsula region where climate change is well established. However, this significant breeding failure at this particular colony in East Antarctica has been linked to unusually extensive sea ice late in the summer, meaning the adult penguins had to travel further to forage for food for their chicks. As a result, the chicks starved.

The penguins will have greater resilience to the threats of climate change if their homes and the ocean diversity they depend on are protected by MPAs.

“We are extremely disappointed about the deadlock at the annual CCAMLR meeting and with today’s decision. WWF, our partners and many supporters across the world had hoped that all CCAMLR member states would recognise the urgent need to protect critical feeding areas in East Antarctic waters. WWF will not give up working to secure MPAs because too many species are being pushed to the brink.” said Chris Johnson.

“Nations designated Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science. This was achieved because leaders put differences aside for the good of nature and for our collective future. Today, we let differences get in the way of responding to the needs of fragile wildlife.”

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For more information, please contact:
Paula Kruger WWF-Australia Senior Manager News and Public Affairs +61 407 067 303  pkruger@wwf.org.au
Chris Johnson Senior Manager, WWF-Antarctic Programme +61 437 226 011

About WWF and Antarctica:
WWF helped to achieve a ban on mining on Antarctica as well as helping establish the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. In terms of marine protection,  in 2002, WWF helped create large marine reserves around Macquarie Island, and Heard Island and McDonald Islands, and in 2006 supported the first bioregionalization of Southern Ocean waters. WWF was a crucial part of establishing the Ross Sea MPA in 2016.

About CCAMLR:
CCAMLR is the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. CCAMLR was established  in 1982 with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life. CCAMLR is comprised of 25 members including the EU.
 
Adelie Penguins, Antarctica.
© David Ainley Enlarge
Adélie penguins
© Y. Ropert-Couder/ CNRS/ IPEV. Enlarge
Map of the Antarctic region
© Nations Online Project Enlarge

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