BRASILIA, Brazil, May 7, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- As the 2014 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) closes today in Brasilia, there is renewed optimism amongst organizations working for marine protection in the Antarctic, after key countries committed to work together in the lead up to this October's Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting in Hobart. The Antarctic Ocean Alliance attended as part of the delegation of its partnering organisation, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), who has recognised NGO status at the ATCM and CCAMLR.
Parties to the Antarctic Treaty this week encouraged CCAMLR to continue their fruitful discussions on marine protected areas (MPAs) in the months leading up to their annual meeting, during which two MPA proposals in the Southern Ocean will be considered.
The partners of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, including The Pew Charitable Trusts, ASOC, WWF, and Greenpeace, are calling on CCAMLR to create the world's two largest marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica, at the October meeting. CCAMLR is an international organization established under the Antarctic Treaty, which is made up of 24 member countries and the European Union. CCAMLR is responsible for protecting the marine life of Antarctica's Southern Ocean, and[i] operates by consensus, meaning all 25-member governments must agree in order for conservation measures to be approved.
All 25 CCAMLR members had previously committed to establishing a representative system of MPAs in the Southern Ocean by 2012. At a meeting in November 2013, however, they again failed to agree on two MPA proposals for East Antarctica (proposed by Australia, the EU, and France), and the Ross Sea (proposed by New Zealand and the United States).
"We are encouraged that the issue of MPA designation was not only on the table here in Brasilia, but is getting the attention and consideration of key countries such as Australia, the U.S., Russia, and China," says Steve Campbell, campaign director of Antarctic Ocean Alliance. "The ATCM has breathed new life into the MPA process after the last two years of challenges and disappointments. Countries should be acknowledged for working together on this."
"This has been a long journey that started with the collection of science a century ago and follows discussions about the East Antarctica and Ross Sea proposals over three separate CCAMLR meetings. At the ATCM, CCAMLR members committed to work constructively together between now and the Commission's next meeting in October towards getting an agreement," said head of WWF's Antarctic and Southern Oceans Initiative Bob Zuur.
The NGO community urges CCAMLR to uphold the conservation values upon which the organization was founded.
"Marine protected areas must be large and permanent to be meaningful," said Andrea Kavanagh, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts' recently launched global penguin conservation program. "CCAMLR has discussed specific proposals for three years and is now two years past its own deadline for action. The outcome of this week's meeting renews hope that in 2014, CCAMLR can designate both the Ross Sea and East Antarctic reserves, and pave the way for additional measures of protection."
The proposed MPAs cover several million square kilometres of the Southern Ocean with a combination of multiple use MPAs and fully protected no-take marine reserves. The AOA supports the adoption of these proposals, but also believes they can be improved in coming years. In addition, the AOA believes that the MPA question is a litmus test of CCAMLR members' true commitment to a conservation-based approach to Southern Ocean management.
Excluding Whales and Seals which are regulated in other Treaties.
SOURCE Antarctic Ocean Alliance