WASHINGTON—The Pew Charitable Trusts expressed concern after the 39th annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) ended with no consensus to designate Southern Ocean marine protections.
Up for consideration was the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) in three Southern Ocean areas: East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea, and the Antarctic Peninsula, which is one of the fastest-warming regions on the planet.
As part of the Antarctic Treaty System, CCAMLR is the governing body responsible for protecting Southern Ocean wildlife and is composed of 25 member countries and the European Union. In light of global travel limitations, this year’s meeting took place virtually—a first in the organization’s history—and moved forward with a shortened agenda.
In a show of solidarity, most delegations signed a pledge declaring the urgent need to create the network of MPAs to protect the region, which is disproportionately suffering from the effects of climate change. And although no MPA designations took place this year, Norway and Uruguay signed on as new co-sponsors of the East Antarctic MPA, while Australia and Uruguay did the same for the Weddell Sea MPA.
Other issues of paramount importance discussed at the meeting included preventing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the Southern Ocean; making progress on ecosystem-based fisheries management for Antarctic krill; and addressing the impacts of climate change on this region.
Andrea Kavanagh, director of Antarctic and Southern Ocean work with The Pew Charitable Trusts, issued the following statement:
“Overall, the failure of global leadership to protect this critical ecosystem is deeply concerning. On the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica and on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty going into force—an agreement reached near the height of the Cold War to protect an entire continent—establishing new marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean should have been an easy decision.
“CCAMLR missed the opportunity to protect an additional 1% of the global ocean, a significant step forward in achieving the goal of protecting 30% of the global ocean by 2030.
“But there is some good news. By signing a pledge declaring the urgent need to create a network of MPAs to protect the region, CCAMLR members showed their determination to make the network a reality and to safeguard critical foraging and breeding grounds for penguins, toothfish, seals, and whales. The addition of Norway, Australia, and Uruguay as new co-sponsors shows forward progress for the East Antarctic and Weddell Sea MPAs.
“CCAMLR has continued to pursue ecosystem-based management of the krill fishery, which will be up for a formal decision in 2021. This puts CCAMLR in an excellent position to achieve significant results next October when the current conservation measure expires.
“This year’s meeting was a missed opportunity for marine protected areas. World leaders are running out of time to protect this area before it is too late. Still, we are grateful to MPA proponent countries who have driven efforts in establishing a network of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean and call on their high-level diplomacy to secure designations in 2021. We remain confident that CCAMLR can achieve this major milestone for conservation next year and look forward to adding a new Antarctic anniversary worth celebrating for years to come.”
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