Written by Steve Campbell, Campaign Director, Antarctic Ocean Alliance
This week, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance is stepping up its campaign to protect the Southern Ocean. At an event in London today, the AOA unveils a new vision for the creation of the world’s largest network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and no-take marine reserves in 19 key Antarctic marine habitats. The AOA is launching a new report, ‘Antarctic Ocean Legacy: A Vision for Circumpolar Protection,’ calling on all of the countries involved in deciding the fate of this magnificent environment to support far-reaching Antarctic marine protection.
The launch in London today marks our first event in the UK along with the launch of our European campaign and included speakers such as the Rt. Hon. John Gummer, Lord Deben former Secretary of State for Environment and two leading Antarctic scientists who will join me in discussing why the moment for Antarctic marine protection is now.
Antarctic marine ecosystems are under increasing pressure. Growing demand for seafood means great interest in the Antarctic Ocean from commercial fishing interests. And climate change is already affecting the abundance of important food sources for penguins, whales, seals and birds. This beautiful, icy ocean environment is home to nearly 10,000 highly adapted species, many of which can be found nowhere else on the planet. Adélie and emperor penguins, Antarctic petrels and minke whales, Ross Sea killer whales, colossal squid and Weddell seals all depend on this harsh environment.
To protect these marine ecosystems, the AOA’s vital research has identified more than 40% of the Southern Ocean that warrants protection in a network of large-scale, no-take marine reserves and MPAs based on combining existing marine protected areas in the region, areas identified within previous conservation and planning analyses and including additional critical habitats described in the report.
Today we find ourselves at a crossroads for marine protection. With around 85% of the world’s fisheries currently overfished or under threat, Antarctica’s still relatively intact ecosystem stands in stark contrast. We now have an opportunity to protect one of the most pristine marine environments left on Earth, an opportunity to create a legacy, like the Antarctic Treaty that protects the region’s landmass, that will be benefit generations to come. But we need your help.
The body that regulates Antarctica’s ocean environment, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), has agreed to create a network of marine protected areas in some of the ocean around Antarctica this year and next. CCAMLR is a consensus body that meets with limited public participation and no media access. We believe that, without public attention during this process, only minimal protection will be achieved. Our “Join the Watch” of CCAMLR campaign now has more than 38,000 participants from around the world and collectively we are calling on CCAMALR Member states to support our far-reaching protection plan while we can.
If you think the Antarctica’s Southern Ocean should be protected, please Join the Watch, spread the word and tell our world leaders you are watching to ensure that this amazing region is protected.