Two dozen countries and the European Union begin talks today that could yield the world's largest marine protected areas in Antarctica's Southern Ocean. Areas in the Ross Sea, considered one of the most pristine marine environments left on Earth, and the East Antarctic waters could receive protective designations by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, or CCAMLR.
The meeting, which ends Nov. 1, will be CCAMLR's third attempt at safeguarding these vital areas from fishing and other industrial activities. To achieve this goal, all members of the commission must agree.
Andrea Kavanagh, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts' Southern Ocean sanctuaries project, called on countries to pass meaningful protections:
“Countries are coming back to the table for a third attempt to agree on Antarctic marine reserves, and after investing significant resources over the past year studying and vetting those protections, it's time to act.
“These are some of our last intact marine areas, and they deserve meaningful, permanent protection, not halfway measures.
“These ocean areas are among the last pristine places on earth and critical to the vitality of broader ocean ecosystems. This is the opportunity to take cooperative action and get it right.”