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From Russia to Japan: Conservation Groups Mark World Penguin Day with a Call to Protect the Southern Ocean

Brussels:  To mark World Penguin Day (25.04.14), the partners of Antarctic Ocean Alliance, including Pew Charitable Trusts, ASOC, WWF and Greenpeace, called on countries including China, Russia, Norway and Japan to help create the world’s two largest marine protected areas (MPAs) to date.  A number of activities – from receptions to photo exhibition and seminars were held in Japan, Russia, Norway and China to mark the day, and a new online petition calling on Russia to support Antarctic protection was launched.

The body that regulates Antarctic waters, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is set to meet in October 2014.

“New political momentum is needed for marine protection in the Southern Ocean.  Countries including Russia, China, Japan and Norway can play a leading role in assuring permanent protection of one of the most pristine environments left on earth,” said Steve Campbell, AOA  campaign director.

“Protection is critical not just to the iconic penguin species, but to entire ocean ecosystems,” said Andrea Kavanagh, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ penguin and Southern Ocean campaign. “Penguins are sentinels of ocean health, and changes to their populations can indicate trouble for other species that depend on a robust food web.”

World Penguin Day Activities:

The 2014 World Penguin day activities in Russia include a photo exhibit and flash mob event, in addition to the launch of the AOA petition.  In China, an online campaign was launched featuring a video and new Weixin circle. In Norway, activities included an evening reception with a penguin expert and Antarctic photographer, in addition to launching the new AOA petition.  In Japan, a photo exhibition and street performance was held to mark world penguin day, in addition to a seminar being held.  In the EU, Commissioner Maria Damanaki produced an opinion piece and blog story to mark world penguin day and reiterate call for marine protection.  In Brussels, a penguin photocall was held outside the European commission. In the UK, a group of penguin-enthusiasts submitted images and videos of their group snowboarding in penguin suits, in the Alps.

“World penguin day is a great opportunity to speak out in support of protecting the Southern Ocean, which contains some of the most pristine waters on the planet and supports one of the Earth’s most important food webs,” said head of WWF’s Antarctic and Southern Oceans Initiative Bob Zuur. “These waters are home not only to penguins but also to the blue whale, Earth’s largest living creature, as well as humpback whales, penguins, seals, and krill.”

The southernmost extent of Adélie penguin habitat is the Ross Sea, where 38% of the world’s population resides. Krill are a major food source for many of Ross Sea’s unique species including minke whales, Adélie and Emperor penguins, crabeater seals and silverfish. Keeping complex food webs in the southern ocean intact and adopting lasting protection measures will mean these unique habitats remain unharmed.

“The marine life around Antarctica is under ever-increasing pressure from climate change, ocean acidification and overfishing,“ said Richard Page, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace International.  “Establishing large-scale ocean protection for the Ross Sea and East Antarctica will not only provide sanctuary for the penguins, but help build resilience, safeguarding the precious Antarctic ecosystem now and in the future.“

“Penguins are an enduring symbol of the world’s last great wilderness – protecting them as a legacy for generations to come is important for all countries,” said Mark Epstein, Executive Director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC).

Ross Sea and East Antarctica Proposals

All 25 CCAMLR members had previously committed to establishing a representative network of MPAs in the Southern Ocean by 2012, however, at a meeting last November, they again failed to agree on two marine protected area proposals for East Antarctica (proposed by Australia, the EU and France), and the Ross Sea (proposed by New Zealand and the United States).

“CCAMLR members must achieve consensus in support of lasting protection for the East Antarctica and Ross Sea and consider additional areas, such as the Weddell Sea, as part of their commitment to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas in the Southern Ocean,” continued Campbell, AOA campaign director .

The proposed MPAs cover several million square kilometres of the Southern Ocean with a combination of multiple use MPAs and 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.

* Notes to editors:

For media queries or to set up interviews in Brussels please contact Mona Samari, [email protected] or call + 44 (0) 7515 828 939

No-take Marine Reserves are highly protected areas that are off limits to all extractive uses including fishing. No-take Marine reserves provide the highest level of protection to all elements of the ocean ecosystem. 

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas where certain activities are limited or prohibited to meet specific conservation, habitat protection or fisheries management objectives.

Consensus-based decision-making does not mean that everyone must agree, but that no one can voice disagreement, which means that one member state can effectively stop a measure from going forward.

The Antarctic Ocean Alliance is a coalition of more than 30 leading environmental organisations and high-profile individuals working together to achieve large-scale protection for key Antarctic Ocean ecosystems. Alliance members include the Pew Charitable Trusts, Greenpeace, WWF, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), Humane Society International, Mission Blue (US), Oceans 5 (US), Deep Wave (Germany), The Last Ocean, Forrest & Bird (NZ), ECO (NZ) and associate partners the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM), Greenovation Hub (China), Oceana, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the International Polar Foundation (UK), Plant a Fish, the International Programme on the State of the Oceans and OceanCare (Switzerland). 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.

http://www.antarcticocean.org/

Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC)

Since 1978, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) has brought together over 200 non-government organizations working full time to preserve the Antarctic continent and its surrounding Southern Ocean.

http://www.asoc.org/

Greenpeace

Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful direct action and creative communication to expose global environmental issues.

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/ 

Pew Charitable Trusts

Pew Charitable Trusts work globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, conserve our wild lands and promote the clean energy economy.

http://www.pewtrusts.org/

WWF

WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF’s unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.

http://www.wwf.org/