Annual Antarctic Treaty meeting Paves Way for Consensus on Marine Protection in Southern Ocean
[BRASILIA, Brazil] As the 2014 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM), closes today in Brasilia, there is renewed optimism amongst organizations working for marine protection in the Antarctic, after key countries committed to work together in the lead up to this October’s Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting in Hobart. The Antarctic Ocean Alliance attended as part of the delegation of it’s partnering organization, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), who has recognised NGO status at the ATCM and CCAMLR.
Parties to the Antarctic Treaty this week encouraged CCAMLR to continue their fruitful discussions on marine protected areas (MPAs) in the months leading up to their annual meeting, during which two MPA proposals in the Southern Ocean will be considered.
The partners of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, including The Pew Charitable Trusts, ASOC, WWF, and Greenpeace, are calling on CCAMLR to create the world’s two largest marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica, at the October meeting. CCAMLR is an international organization established under the Antarctic Treaty, which is made up of 24 member countries and the European Union. CCAMLR is responsible for protecting the marine life of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, and [i] operates by consensus, meaning all 25-member governments must agree in order for conservation measures to be approved.
All 25 CCAMLR members had previously committed to establishing a representative system of MPAs in the Southern Ocean by 2012. At a meeting in November 2013, however, they again failed to agree on two MPA proposals for East Antarctica (proposed by Australia, the EU and France), and the Ross Sea (proposed by New Zealand and the United States).
“We are encouraged that the issue of MPA designation was not only on the table here in Brasilia, but is getting the attention and consideration of key countries such as Australia, the US, Russia and China,” says Steve Campbell, campaign director of Antarctic Ocean Alliance. “The ATCM has breathed new life into the MPA process after the last two years of challenges and disappointments. Countries should be acknowledged for working together on this.”
“This has been a long journey that started with the collection of science a century ago and follows discussions about the East Antarctica and Ross Sea proposals over three separate CCAMLR meetings. At the ATCM, CCAMLR members committed to work constructively together between now and the Commission’s next meeting in October towards getting an agreement,” said head of WWF’s Antarctic and Southern Oceans Initiative Bob Zuur.
The NGO community urges CCAMLR to uphold the conservation values upon which the organization was founded.
“Marine protected areas must be large and permanent to be meaningful,” said Andrea Kavanagh, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ recently launched global penguin conservation program. “CCAMLR has discussed specific proposals for three years and is now two years past its own deadline for action. The outcome of this week’s meeting renews hope that in 2014, CCAMLR can designate both the Ross Sea and East Antarctic reserves, and pave the way for additional measures of protection.”
The proposed MPAs cover several million square kilometres of the Southern Ocean with a combination of multiple use MPAs and fully protected no-take marine reserves. The AOA supports the adoption of these proposals, but also believes they can be improved in coming years. In addition, the AOA believes that the MPA question is a litmus test of CCAMLR members’ true commitment to a conservation-based approach to Southern Ocean management.
* Notes to editors:
Fully-Protected Marine Reserves are areas that are off limits to all extractive uses, including fishing. Fully-protected Marine reserves provide the highest level of protection to all elements of the ocean ecosystem.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas where certain activities are limited or prohibited to meet specific conservation, habitat protection or fisheries management objectives.
Consensus-based decision-making does not mean that everyone must agree, but that no one can voice disagreement, which means that one member state can effectively stop a measure from going forward.
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance is a coalition of more than 30 leading environmental organisations and high-profile individuals working together to achieve large-scale protection for key Antarctic Ocean ecosystems. Alliance members include The Pew Charitable Trusts, Greenpeace, WWF, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), Humane Society International, Mission Blue (US), Oceans 5 (US), Deep Wave (Germany), The Last Ocean, Forrest & Bird (NZ), ECO (NZ), the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM), Greenovation Hub (China), and associate partners the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Oceana, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the International Polar Foundation (UK), Plant a Fish, the International Programme on the State of the Oceans and OceanCare (Switzerland). AOA Ambassadors include actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton, Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, Chinese entrepreneur and explorer Wang Jing and Korean actor Yoo Ji-Tae.
Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) Since 1978, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) has brought together over 200 non-government organizations working full time to preserve the Antarctic continent and its surrounding Southern Ocean www.asoc.org
Greenpeace Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful direct action and creative communication to expose global environmental issues. www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/
The Pew Charitable Trusts The Pew Charitable Trusts work globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, conserve our wild lands and promote the clean energy economy. www.pewtrusts.org
WWF WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF’s unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature. www.wwf.org
[i] Excluding Whales and Seals which are regulated in other Treaties.