Asia Has an Important Role to Play in Protecting Antarctica’s Wild Ocean
This post is courtesy of our friend Julian Chen at Antarctic Ocean Alliance.
With less than 100 days to go until the body that regulates Antarctica’s marine environment meets to decide what is protected and what is left open for exploitation, Asia’s moment for environmental leadership is now.
Having seen the breathtaking wildness of the land and ocean of Antarctica on a visit in 2010, I joined the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) team to help ensure this area remains the same for future generations when they come to visit. As I’m based in China, I especially want to reach out to those living in Asia because we have such an important leadership role to play in standing up for marine protection at this important time.
Unbeknownst to most of us, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) will meet in late October to decide what areas the Southern Ocean — the world’s biggest global ocean commons — will be protected. Made up of 24 countries plus the European Union, CCAMLR meets behind closed doors and with no media access. I’ll be at that meeting to take the voice of those of us who believe we should protect this amazing environment to delegates there.
Home to almost 10,000 of the world’s most unique species, including seals, penguins, colossal squid and sea birds, the Southern Ocean truly belongs to all of us. The AOA has proposed protection for 19 key habitats in key ecosystems and the importance of these areas for biological and climate change research. If successful, the AOA’s proposed areas would be the largest network of ocean reserves in the world.
Naturally, there are countries who want to continue fishing in these waters, primarily for two species: a top predator species, the Antarctic toothfish, and krill, a tiny shrimp-like species that is increasingly sought after for fish oil supplements and uses such as aqua-culture. As CCAMLR is a consensus body, their meeting is sure to see a struggle between those who would like to protect the region, and those who would like to see industrial activities increase. The outcome is far from certain.
In September, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will meet in Jeju, South Korea. Hundreds of global experts will be in Asia and we have a lot to learn about what’s at stake in our global oceans. Just after the IUCN meeting, my colleagues and I will be joined by two Antarctic scientists and a policy expert and will meet with government officials in China and Korea to ask them to consider showing leadership for environment protection for these waters.
But the AOA needs your help! Join us and “Join the Watch” so that we can ensure CCAMLR delegates know we are asking for serious protection of this ocean environment. Other AOA supporters include oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Korean actor Yoo Ji-Tae, actor and UN Biodiversity Ambassador Edward Norton and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, as well as environment groups such as Greenpeace, WWF, Korea’s KFEM, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and my own organization, Greenovation Hub.
In Antarctica, we have a window of opportunity to do what we’ve been unable to do in most of the rest of the world’s oceans: protect them form overexploitation.
As Edward Norton says: “We can send a clear signal that millions of people are watching this process… Don’t let us down.”
Together in Asia and around the world, we can show real leadership in protection Antarctica’s beautiful marine environment while we still can.
Find out more at www.antarcticocean.org and join the almost 80,000 people from around the world who have Joined the Watch of CCAMLR to ask for long-term protection for Antarctica’s ocean for us and for future generations. And tell those you know to do the same.
Photo by John B. Weller