The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) is celebrating World Penguin Day, with events in Russia and Germany aimed at urging government support for the establishment of two large-scale Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean this year. AOA will soon hold a scientific seminar in China – another country that is critical to achieving Antarctic marine protection, at the upcoming meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in July.
Antarctica’s Southern Ocean constitutes approximately 10% of the world’s seas. To date, less than 2% of the world’s oceans are strictly protected as marine reserves and overfishing, pollution, industrial development and other environmental damage has put many ocean environments at risk. Climate change is already affecting the abundance of important food sources for penguins, whales, seals and birds in Antarctic marine habitats.
“The Southern Ocean is under increasing pressure from climate change and resource extraction, but areas such as the Ross Sea and East Antarctica are amongst the least impacted, healthiest and most beautiful oceans in the world,” said AOA Campaign Director Steve Campbell. “It is one of the last remaining wildernesses on the planet and is deemed a necessary ‘living laboratory’ by scientists.”
CCAMLR is the body that regulates marine life in Antarctic waters, and is set to hold a special meeting in Bremerhaven in less than 75 days to consider adopting what would be the two largest MPAs in the world – in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica. The proposed MPAs cover several million square kilometres of the Southern Ocean with a combination of multiple use MPAs and no-take marine reserves.
According to the decision-making procedures of CCAMLR, consensus must be reached by the at Bremerhaven to adopt the MPA proposals protecting waters in East Antarctica and the Ross Sea.
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance and its supporters are encouraging public support to achieve large-scale protection for key Antarctic ocean ecosystems. Alliance members include the Pew Environment Group, Greenpeace, WWF, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), Mission Blue (US), and associate partners include the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Oceana, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). AOA Ambassadors include actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton, Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, Chinese entrepreneur and explorer Wang Jing and Korean actor Yoo Ji-Tae.