International coalition promotes network of Antarctica marine protected areas
A new international coalition is working to set up a network of designated marine protected areas (MPA) and no-take marine reserves in the oceans surrounding Antarctica.
Such a network in place would protect key Antarctic Ocean habitats and wildlife from human interference.
“This network of Antarctic marine reserves would be an order of magnitude greater than anything that has been achieved before,” the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) wrote.
The Alliance is a new coalition of leading environmental groups and philanthropists including Greenpeace, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), Mission Blue, Oceans Five, The Last Ocean, Forest & Bird, associates Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) and Oceana and other groups worldwide.
“As the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has set a time frame for a representative system of marine protected areas by 2012, there is an unprecedented window of opportunity to establish this network in the oceans around Antarctica as a legacy for future generations,” AOA added.
The Alliance’s Steve Campbell believes the oceans in this region are some of the most pristine in the world and should be safeguarded. He said AOA wants most of the area to be placed into no-take reserves that ban all activity except for scientific research.
The biggest marine reserve in the world at the moment is about 600,000 sq km but we know that there are areas around Antarctica which could certainly add up to a lot more than that. We've identified about 19 regions around Antarctica where there could be a marine reserve or marine protected areas set up and this would establish a network of areas all the way around the continent of Antarctica and would be put in place for all time we hope he said.
Campbell noted that global fishing stocks quickly being depleted due to over-fishing, and that these resulting shortages are increasingly straining the marine resources of the Southern Ocean. The fishery mainly is for krill and toothfish but also involves skate and icefish, among other species.
The problem at the moment is that as fisheries resources around the world come under more and more pressure, there are going to be more distant water-fishing nations who want to go to the oceans around Antarctica to extract protein, Campbell said. And they are going to do it either legally or illegally.
The areas recommended for protection include the Ross Sea, the Antarctic Peninsula and the Weddell Sea. Key countries fishing there at the moment are Russia, Norway, Korea, New Zealand, UK and Spain, he added.
The MPAs would protect 10,000 species, including emperor penguins, minke and killer whales, seals, krill and colossal squid. (FIS/MP)