Project

Protecting Antarctica's Southern Ocean

Antarctica’s Southern Ocean is one of the world’s last great wilderness areas, surrounding the coldest, driest, windiest, and least altered continent.

The ocean’s frigid waters bustle with thousands of species found nowhere else, from brilliantly hued starfish and bioluminescent worms to pastel octopuses. Nutrients that well up from the icy depths ride currents great distances to nourish wildlife in faraway seas.

Antarctica is also home to millions of penguins that feed on large swarms of krill, a tiny shrimplike crustacean, and other forage species in the region’s delicate food web.

But those predator-prey relationships are in jeopardy, scientists say, in large part because the Southern Ocean ecosystems are being modified by the impacts of climate change. Temperatures there are warming faster than nearly anywhere else on Earth.

To protect this spectacular region and the species that rely on it, Pew and its partners are working with the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)—the body responsible for conserving biodiversity in the Southern Ocean—and its member governments to establish a network of large-scale marine protected areas (MPAs) around Antarctica.

Marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean
Marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean
Fact Sheet

A Network of Marine Protected Areas in the Southern Ocean

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Fact Sheet

The Southern Ocean, surrounding Antarctica, is one of the least altered marine ecosystems on Earth. Scientists believe this ecosystem is changing due to the impact of climate change and temperatures that are warming faster than nearly anywhere else on Earth.

Protection for East Antarctica
Protection for East Antarctica
Fact Sheet

Protection for East Antarctica

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Fact Sheet

In the waters off East Antarctica, the MacRobertson, Drygalski, and D’Urville Sea-Mertz areas cover almost a million square kilometres. Together, they make up the current proposal for a system of marine protected areas (MPA) to be considered by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

Glacier
Fact Sheet

Protection for the Antarctic Peninsula Region

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Fact Sheet

The Western Antarctic Peninsula and South Scotia Arc regions are some of the most biologically important areas of the Southern Ocean and have experienced the impacts of a changing climate more than almost anywhere else on Earth. Regional warming is leading to changing weather conditions, substantial declines in sea ice formation, and winter habitat loss for wildlife such as Adélie and chinstrap penguins, crabeater seals, and Antarctic krill, a forage species that forms the base of the food web. Combined with concentrated fishing for krill in coastal areas, these changing conditions are putting a strain on this fragile ecosystem and its remarkable biodiversity. Consequently, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is considering a proposal to establish a large marine protected area (MPA) in this region.

Protection for the Weddell Sea
Fact Sheet

Protection for the Weddell Sea

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Fact Sheet

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is considering a proposal that would create a marine reserve in the Weddell Sea covering 700,000 square miles (1.8 million square kilometers). The Weddell Sea is a remote, ice-covered embayment east of the Antarctic Peninsula, and one of the most pristine marine ecosystems in the world. This area is a unique habitat known for its outstanding biodiversity, including Antarctic petrels, emperor and Adélie penguins, and multiple species of seals and whales. Far below the sea ice, nutrient-rich benthic ecosystems form key habitat for an array of creatures found nowhere else on Earth, such as glass sponges and cold-water corals.

Our Work

CCAMLR 101: How to Protect Antarctica's Marine Life
4min 10sec