27, Oct, 2017

Antarctic Marine Protection Torpedoed

Category: Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition

Hobart, Australia: Discussions and agreements were stalled and blocked for many Antarctic marine issues considered at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). CCAMLR was considering proposals on marine protected areas and climate change in addition to its usual work on compliance and enforcement.

A proposal put forward by Australia, the EU and France for a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in East Antarctic waters since 2010 did not gain the required consensus. Despite good faith attempts by delegations supportive of the proposal to understand and address their concerns, Russia and China could not come to an agreement with other CCAMLR Members.

Progress was also prevented on an important initiative to organize the Commission’s response to climate change, an issue that has lagged in recent years despite the clear impacts on Antarctic marine ecosystems.  

"After years of work to refine the East Antarctica proposal agreement, unanimous support was so close,” said Claire Christian, director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) (2). “This year CCAMLR moved away from its historical legacy of bold thinking on conservation.  We can only hope this does not become the norm.”

Andrea Kavanagh, who directs Antarctic and Southern Ocean conservation work at The Pew Charitable Trusts added: “If CCAMLR is serious about its commitment to establish a Southern Ocean network of MPAs, it must continue moving forward in the coming years by agreeing to further protections, including in the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Peninsula, or risk jeopardizing the health of the region’s intact ecosystems.”

The East Antarctic MPA would have added extra protection for nearly a million square kilometers of ocean for protection and provided a vital sanctuary for key feeding and breeding areas as well as critical species habitats. (3)

The Ross Sea MPA agreed at last year’s meeting comes into force on December 1st 2017. Despite implementation of the research and monitoring plan for the Ross Sea MPA being blocked, it was endorsed by the Commission's Science Committee.

Christian added, “The CCAMLR agreement covers 10% of the world’s oceans. Many of the foundations are in place for this incredible region to be protected and conserved. It’s disappointing that this year the international community has failed to implement them. We call on all CCAMLR members to return in 2018 with a far greater level of ambition to get on with their obligations to protect and conserve this global treasure. (4)”


1. CCAMLR is comprised of 24 Member states and the EU.

2. ASOC is coalition of over 30 NGOs working for Antarctic environmental protection


4. ASOC’s vision is for a network of four MPAs in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica by 2020 – the bicentenary of the discovery of Antarctica.