In 2009, 24 countries and the European Union (EU) agreed to a bold plan to create a circumpolar network of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica by 2012. As Members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), they took the first step towards fulfilling that commitment by designating the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA) in 2016, which will come into force in December 2017. After years of stalled negotiations, this accomplishment was greeted with worldwide acclaim, and breathed new life into a global effort to protect the high seas.
The designation of the world’s largest MPA was a moment of true international cooperation and consensus. CCAMLR must now maintain this momentum to fulfill their commitment to a circumpolar network. There are three more proposals on the table. An EU proposal for an MPA in the Weddell Sea has been under consideration since 2016, and a proposal for an MPA in the Western Antarctic Peninsula, led by Argentina and Chile, is expected later this year. The final proposal, the East Antarctic Representative System of MPAs (EARSMPA), was proposed to CCAMLR in 2011 by Australia and the EU.
The current EARSMPA proposal covers three areas – MacRobertson, Drygalski and D’Urville-Mertz – each of which is an important foraging area for Antarctica’s populations of mammals and birds, including emperor and Adélie penguins.…Continue reading »