Independent Global Leaders Urge Russian President Putin to Rescue Antarctic Marine Reserve Negotiations

Jul 15, 2013, 19:25 ET from Pew Charitable Trusts

CCAMLR leaders call out Russia; James Cameron Petitions Russian President Putin

BREMERHAVEN, Germany, July 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Russia today challenged the legal basis that would allow for the creation of large-scale marine reserves in Antarctica. Negotiations are currently under way here at a special meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, or CCAMLR, to discuss the adoption of marine reserves in the Ross Sea and Eastern Antarctica totalling more than three million square kilometres.

"One wonders if Russia's efforts are a stalling tactic designed to bring negotiations to a halt," says Andrea Kavanagh of The Pew Charitable Trusts, attending CCAMLR meeting. "At the very least this move jeopardizes international cooperation and goodwill, two key ingredients needed for global marine conservation. We urge world leaders to appeal to Russia to work with other countries to responsibly govern the oceans we all share."

Russia is a founding member of the international Commission for the Conservation of Marine Antarctic Living Resources, which manages marine resources in the Southern Ocean and is comprised of 24 countries and the European Union.

The legal basis for CCAMLR's competence to establish large scale MPAs is clear and comes from several places:

  • The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS);
  • CCAMLR's 2011 adoption of conservation measure 91.04 (which was agreed to by Russia);
  • The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, entered into force on 7 April 1982 with a goal to preserve the marine life and environmental integrity in and near Antarctica. It also gives CCAMLR the authority to establish marine reserves.
  • CCAMLR's 2012 designation of an MPA around the South Orkney Islands which was also agreed to by consensus (including Russia).

In an open letter earlier, James Cameron, Sir Richard Branson, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Dr. Sylvia Earle, and Capt. Don Walsh wrote to President Vladimir Putin to support Antarctic marine reserve designations.

Dear President Putin,

As you are aware, in Bremerhaven, Germany this week (July 11th – 16th) there will be a special meeting to consider marine protected area (MPA) proposals for the Ross Sea and several areas off the coast of East Antarctica. The Ross Sea remains one of the most intact marine ecosystems on the planet, with robust populations of whales, penguins, seals, albatrosses and other species. East Antarctica is a remote region of high ecological importance, home to a significant proportion of the Southern Ocean's penguins, seabirds, seals and whales. Russia's position will be crucial to the protection of these areas which are amongst the most iconic areas for marine wildlife on earth.

Russia was a founding member of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and has an extensive Antarctic exploration history as well as a long tradition of important scientific research. As such, Russia has a critical leadership role to play in determining the future of Antarctica.

CCAMLR's 2009 decision to establish a network of MPAs was a bold and forward-looking step. Agreeing to designate meaningful MPAs at the CCAMLR meetings this year will help fulfil this commitment. If the Ross Sea and the East Antarctic marine protected areas are designated, they will be the largest in the world and would more than double in size the area of ocean that is afforded significant protection worldwide. This would reaffirm the leadership of CCAMLR member countries on marine conservation of the high seas and leave a substantial legacy for future generations.

The proposed MPAs in these regions offer all CCAMLR Members unprecedented research and monitoring opportunities for scientists to understand how large-scale, fully functioning ecosystems work, and also how such ecosystems are influenced by climate change and ocean acidification. Thus far, the Ross Sea and East Antarctica have been spared the impact of widespread pollution, invasive species, bottom trawling and other large-scale commercial fishing operations that are imperilling other marine areas around the world. But conditions are changing, and the need to take steps to better protect key areas in the Southern Ocean is compelling.

We hope that with your leadership Russia will support the Ross Sea and East Antarctica marine protected area proposals at the Bremerhaven meeting this week. We stand ready to assist in any way.

Kind regards,

Sir Richard Branson James Cameron Jean-Michel Cousteau, Dr. Sylvia Earle Capt. Don Walsh

Editors Notes :

OceanElders is an independent group of global leaders who have joined together to serve as a catalyst in the conservation and protection of the ocean and its wildlife. These individuals use their collective influence, supported by science and data, to promote ocean conservation, pursue the protection of the ocean's habitat and wildlife, and preserve its ecosystems and species biodiversity.

OceanElders was created to be a locus of collaboration in the field of ocean conservation. By working with and leveraging the work of other ocean organizations, OceanElders works to encourage, endorse, and champion their ocean initiatives. The structure is optimized and the team focused to be a catalytic agent of change in order to achieve lasting impact at scale in ocean conservation and sustainability.

Link to the MP3 of the press briefing earlier today in which CCAMLR discussed the action taken by Russia:

SOURCE Pew Charitable Trusts