The government of the United States has been praised by The Pew Charitable Trusts for its decision to co-lead in matters concerning Southern Ocean Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), special climate envoy John Kerry announced during a virtual ministerial meeting hosted by the European Union.
Kerry conveyed to his audience that the United States were joining the EU, the United Kingdom, Australia, Norway, and Uruguay in pushing for the designation of the East Antarctic and the Weddell Sea as MPAs—which would protect more than 3 million square kilometres of the Southern Ocean.
These two MPA designations by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) would also move the world nearly 1% closer to achieving the goal of protecting 30% of the global ocean, called for in 2016 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Research shows that MPAs can help vulnerable marine ecosystems build resilience to climate change by eliminating additional stresses such as fishing and that networks of MPAs also help species adapt to climate change by creating protected pathways for migrations and range shifts.
In 2009, CCAMLR became the first international body to commit to creating an ecologically representative network of MPAs, following recommendations from the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development. Two years later, its member governments agreed to a framework for creating such a network and identified nine regions for future MPAs. Since 2011, CCAMLR has designated two MPAs in Southern Ocean waters: the Ross Sea and the South Orkney Islands.
After today’s meeting, 15 countries and the EU issued a joint declaration saying they would work towards the designation of the Southern Ocean MPAs as soon as possible and calling “on all CCAMLR Members to act as soon as possible to conserve the Southern Ocean’s unique biodiversity and ecosystems for present and future generations.”
Andrea Kavanagh, director of Antarctic and Southern Ocean work for The Pew Charitable Trusts, issued the following statement:
“The Southern Ocean is one of the last great wilderness areas on the planet. And in a year in which we mark the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty entering into force, two years after it was signed in 1959, the Southern Ocean’s fate continues to affect us all. Its cold deep currents not only carry nutrients to feed many of the world’s fisheries, but also regulate heat distribution around the globe. And its waters store carbon in ways we have just begun to understand.
“Protection of the Southern Ocean is the kind of nature-based solution needed to make marine ecosystems more resilient in the fight against global climate change. We welcome the news that the U.S. is joining the other countries leading the charge for designation of two new MPAs in the Southern Ocean.”