As Threats to Southern Ocean Mount, So Does Need for Greater Protections

CCAMLR should use annual meeting to help wildlife and ecosystems build resilience

As Threats to Southern Ocean Mount, So Does Need for Greater Protections
Penguins
Laurent Ballesta

Beginning Oct. 21, member countries of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) will meet for two weeks in Hobart, Australia, to determine the future of conservation in the Southern Ocean. CCAMLR delegates will consider proposals for three marine protected areas (MPAs), all of which have been discussed but failed to pass the commission in prior years. The urgency to designate new MPAs in the Southern Ocean continues to rise, driven by a growing body of science showing that conservation action in the Antarctic region could provide much-needed climate resilience for vulnerable ecosystems.

Earlier this year, the United Nations published a dire report on the state of global biodiversity, warning that species extinction rates are accelerating and declaring that about 1 million species are already threatened with extinction. This number includes iconic Southern Ocean species such as emperor and chinstrap penguins. A second report released last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that the ocean and the Earth’s ice-covered regions, or cryosphere, are on the front line of the climate crisis, and recommended that global leaders act to increase the number and size of MPAs.

CCAMLR is well positioned to contribute significantly to this goal, given that the Southern Ocean makes up 18 percent of the global ocean and that its cold, deep waters store significant amounts of carbon. Further, scientists frequently note that what happens in the Southern Ocean doesn’t stay there so, for example, disruptions to nutrient upwelling and northbound currents could affect marine life around the world.

MPAs are the most effective tool to protect ocean ecosystems because they increase the diversity and abundance of species while enhancing the ocean’s resilience to environmental impacts, including climate change. An MPA network in the Southern Ocean would also help preserve the region’s function as a vital carbon sink—a service that is amplified by Antarctic krill, a keystone species that sequesters 23 million tons of carbon in the Southern Ocean each year.

This year, CCAMLR member governments should designate the three proposed MPAs—in East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea, and the Antarctic Peninsula. These areas, together with existing MPAs in the region, would protect more than 7 million square kilometers, significantly contributing to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s goal of protecting 30 percent of the world’s ocean by 2030 and fulfilling the commitment that CCAMLR members made in 2011 to establish an MPA network that protects representative examples of marine ecosystems, biodiversity and habitats.

CCAMLR’s scientific committee should also take the opportunity in Hobart to endorse a work plan that would enable the commission to adopt a long-term ecosystem-based management system for the Antarctic krill fishery. Commercial fishing grounds for Antarctic krill have a high degree of overlap with foraging ranges for land-based predators. This overlap creates fisheries competition that could further weaken ecosystems and compromise breeding and feeding conditions for many Southern Ocean species. In conjunction with a network of MPAs, this ecosystem-based management plan would provide the Southern Ocean ecosystem a fighting chance against cumulative stressors in the region.

Fact Sheet

Una red de áreas marinas protegidas en el Océano Austral

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Fact Sheet

El Océano Austral (el que rodea la Antártida), es uno de los ecosistemas marinos menos alterados en la Tierra. Comprende el 15 por ciento del océano del mundo, y es hogar de cientos de especies que no se encuentran en ningún otro lugar: desde estrellas de mar de brillante colorido y gusanos bioluminiscentes hasta pulpos de color pastel. También es hogar de millones de pingüinos que dependen de grandes cardúmenes de kril, un pequeño crustáceo con apariencia de camarón, al igual que de otras especies forrajeras que forman la base de una delicada red trófica. Los científicos creen que este ecosistema está cambiando a causa del impacto del cambio climático y de la temperatura que está aumentando de manera más rápida que en cualquier otro lugar de la Tierra.

Fact Sheet

Protección para la Antártida Oriental

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Fact Sheet

En las aguas de la Antártida Oriental, las áreas de MacRobertson, Drygalski y D’Urville Sea-Mertz cubren casi un millón de kilómetros cuadrados. Juntas, conforman la propuesta actual para crear un sistema de áreas marinas protegidas (AMP) para ser considerado por la Comisión para la Conservación de los Recursos Vivos Marinos Antárticos (CCRVMA). The Pew Charitable Trusts respalda el establecimiento de reservas marinas de no pesca porque existe evidencia de que estas ayudan a fortalecer el ecosistema y a restablecer la biodiversidad. Además, las reservas marinas pueden impulsar la resiliencia climática. Específicamente, las reservas de no pesca pueden ayudar a los océanos y al planeta a adaptarse a seis impactos clave del cambio climático: acidificación de los océanos, aumento del nivel del mar, mayor intensidad de las tormentas, cambios en la distribución de las especies y reducción de la productividad biológica y disponibilidad de oxígeno.

Fact Sheet

Protección para el Mar de Weddell

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Fact Sheet

Los integrantes de la Convención sobre la Conservación de los Recursos Vivos Antárticos (CCRVMA) están considerando una propuesta que impulsaría la creación de una reserva marina en el Mar de Weddell de casi 790.000 millas cuadradas (más de 2 millones de kilómetros cuadrados). El Mar de Weddell es una remota bahía cubierta de hielo, situada al este de la Península Antártica, y constituye uno de los ecosistemas marinos más prístinos del mundo.

Issue Brief

La protección de la Península Antártica es esencial para la vida marina

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Issue Brief

Las aguas de la Península Antártica Occidental y el mar del Scotia albergan una diversa y abundante vida marina.

Additional Resources

Video

Protecting East Antarctica and the Southern Ocean

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Video

In addition to millions of penguins, East Antarctica is home sea spiders the size of dinner plates and bright jelly fish and other bottom dwelling sea creatures that make the waters resemble a coral reef.

Video

Santuarios del Océano Austral

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Video

El Océano Austral, es decir, la masa de agua que rodea a la Antártida, es una de las últimas áreas inexploradas del planeta. El cambio climático y la creciente presión de la pesca ponen en riesgo a esta vasta área y a sus especies icónicas, como son pingüinos, ballenas y focas.

Video

CCAMLR 101: How to Protect Antarctica's Marine Life

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Video

What is CCAMLR, and how can it protect the penguins, seals, whales, and other animals that live in Antarctica? Our whiteboard animation explains.