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Antarctic Ross Sea protection hangs in the balance at CCAMLR meeting
HOBART, 29 October 2012 The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) welcomed the news of a joint US and New Zealand Ross Sea protection proposal as a key foundation for a network of marine protected areas and reserves in the Southern Ocean but warned it will have to be supported by all members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to be successful.
Debate will be robust at the CCAMLR meeting this week among key parties, including fishing nations, and there is no guarantee of success, said AOAs director Stephen Campbell. The devil will be in the detail of what Delegates agree to support for both Ross Sea and East Antarctic marine protection.
The AOA has called for 3.6 square million kilometres of Ross Sea habitats to be protected based on current scientific research. The US-NZ proposal provides 1.6 million km2 of no-take protection areas, which
Campbell said is clearly substantial and could become the largest marine reserve in the world, assuming CCAMLR agrees to it.
All CCAMLR Members must still agree to the US NZ Ross Sea proposal and therefore success hangs in the balance.
The AOA said environmental organisations are concerned about the concept of light fishing, reported in todays media, and where this may occur in the Ross Sea. If specific areas are not protected, including critical Ross Sea habitats, the proposal would fall short of what scientists say is needed to protect key ecosystems in the most pristine ocean left on earth. Todays media has reported that the period of agreement for the proposed marine protected area remains open to negotiation, but may be indefinite.
The AOA urges that marine protected areas should remain in place for generations to come and not be reopened on a whim by one country, Campbell said. It is vital that any proposal provides enduring protection for the most important places.
Public support for Antarctic marine protection has grown significantly over the last year with more than 1.2 million signing onto calls for large-scale protection. It is crucially important that CCAMLR reaches agreement on effective proposals for the Ross Sea and East Antarctica. The world is now watching and at the close of the meeting this Thursday, they will be expecting a real result.
The AOAs research has identified over 40% of the Southern Ocean that warrants protection in a network of large-scale marine reserves and MPAs based on conservation and planning analyses, and including additional key environmental habitats.
Antarctic marine ecosystems are under increasing pressure. Growing demand for seafood means greater interest in the Southern Oceans resources, while climate change is affecting the abundance of important food sources for penguins, whales, seals and birds.
The AOA is made up of 30 international organisations including DEEPWAVE, the Pew Environment Group, WWF, Greenpeace, and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) and many others from countries around the world.
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Twitter: #JointheWatch, #Antarcticocean