A Chance to Save the Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean circles Antarctica and remains one of the most pristine and ecologically rich oceans on earth. Its richness has attracted a growing number of industrial fishing fleets, which are harvesting toothfish and krill, the tiny shrimplike creatures that are the foundation of the Antarctic’s marine life. Add to that a growing interest in mineral resources of the Southern Ocean and you have same kind of commercial pressure that is threatening the ecological balance of nearly every ocean on the planet. There is still time to reverse course. For the past week in Hobart, Tasmania, members of the Commission for the Conservation of the Antarctic Marine Living Resources have been considering a few several proposals to create marine protected areas extending from the Antarctic continent well out to sea. Australia, France and European Union have proposed setting aside some 733.000 square miles off East Antarctica. United States and New Zealand have separately proposed a protected area in the Ross Sea, and Britain wants to protect any area where an ice shelf has collapsed. A coalition of some 30 environmental organizations supports expanding the protected area to create a ring of protected areas around the continent. What makes these negotiations difficult is the tension between conservation and extraction. The international agreement signed by member states of Antarctic marine life commission is devoted to conservation, but its definition of conservation includes “rational use” of Southern Ocean’s biological resources. We have nothing against “rational use,” but we know all too well how easily such a loophole could be abused. Again and again, we have watched fishing nations fish their way into a dead end where only recourse is to stop fishing entirely for a number of years. At a minimum, the areas proposed in the Ross Sea and around East Antarctica should be protected; better still if the larger areas recommended by conservationists are included. Beyond that, it is critically important to make sure that “rational use” does not undermine protection of these sensitive marine ecosystems. (Editorial – NYTimes – 28/10/2012)

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Consultor Internacional

One Response to A Chance to Save the Southern Ocean

  1. A meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, Australia ended in deadlock on Thursday when member nations failed to reach agreement on new protected areas across Antarctica, home to the world’s most intact marine ecosystem. The two-week CCAMLR talks, attended by representatives from 24 nations and the European Union, were geared at establishing giant marine sanctuaries in two critical areas of the Southern Ocean. One of the most pristine ocean regions in the world, its waters are home to penguins, seals, whales and seabirds, whose food sources are increasingly under threat from climate change and overfishing. At stake are the region’s stocks of krill, a valuable crustacean which is the keystone species of the Antarctic ecosystem. The growing global demand for animal feed and fish bait is causing a rapid decline in its numbers. “Antarctica is home to unique ecosystems,” said German Agricultural Minister Ilse Aigner ahead of the talks, pledging that Germany would “actively support protection of its oceans.” A US-New Zealand plan foresaw a 1.6 million square kilometer protected area in the Ross Sea, while nations led by the EU and Australia had proposed a series of reserves encompassing 1.9 million square kilometers — an area bigger than Alaska. But these efforts were thwarted by resistance from China, Russia and Ukraine, which raised objections to fishing restrictions in the proposed reserve on the grounds they would have too much impact on their annual hauls. “(Establishing marine reserves) is a complex process involving a large amount of scientific research as well as international diplomacy,” said CCAMLR in a statement.


    “It was decided … that further consideration of the proposals is needed.” Amid the lack of consensus, the decision on the ocean sanctuary was postponed until a special session to be held in Germany in July 2013.

    Environmentalists expressed their concern at the outcome of the CCAMLR talks. “We’re deeply disappointed,” Steve Campbell of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance told Reuters. “Members failed to establish any large-scale Antarctic marine protection because a number of countries actively blocked conservation efforts.” “CCAMLR has behaved like a fisheries organization instead of an organization dedicated to conservation of Antarctic waters,” railed Farah Obaidullah of Greenpeace.


    Gerry Leape from the Pew Environment Group agreed, telling AFP that “In 2011, participating countries agreed to work together to protect and conserve the unique marine life that thrives in the ocean surrounding Antarctica. Instead, they are heading home and leaving the door wide open to unchecked commercial fishing in these areas.”

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/china-and-russia-block-plan-to-create-ocean-sanctuaries-in-antarctica-a-864962.html

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