by Sara Holden
This morning on the first day of the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, the chair was asked the question on all our minds – will the East Antarctic Marine Protected Area be adopted this year? “Anything is possible, if we all cooperate”, replied Monde Mayekiso. Well said!
We hope that the cooperation and diplomacy we saw last year that resulted in the creation of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area, is repeated this year for East Antarctica and the Member States could take a few lessons in cooperation and hope from the wonderful school children from the local Friends School in Hobart.
There were 25 children, one for every CCAMLR Member State and the EU – and they came to deliver a message and stunning photographs from National Geographic explorer and photographer, Laurent Ballesta.
Laurent’s photographs, many depicting species never captured on film before, will be hung in the CCAMLR headquarters for all the Member States to see for the next two weeks, as they decide if they will cooperate in creating a large scale marine reserve for the second year running. This morning the children presented the images to delegation members and encouraged them to keep their promises made in previous years, and protect the Southern Ocean.
In a written message to CCAMLR, Laurent Ballesta echoed the hopes of the children in an evocative message to the CCAMLR Member States:
Open Letter from National Geographic Explorer and Photographer Laurent Ballesta to CCAMLR Secretariat and Member States
16th October 2017
Thank you for accepting these photographs and I am sorry I cannot be there in person to deliver them. But, I am very happy that the children from Friends School in Hobart are acting on my behalf.
They are the future explorers and photographers, the scientists, researchers and decision-makers and it is for them that we must act, to ensure our oceans – especially the Southern Ocean – are protected.
On more than fifty dives in the waters around East Antarctica I saw marine life that has never been photographed before, and I only covered a tiny part of this great ocean. Imagine what else we have not seen and do not know.
But we are already seeing the impacts on marine life of climate change and overfishing. It would be a crime to let disappear what is yet to be discovered.
Common sense tells us, and nature is already showing us, that we cannot continue to exploit our natural resources without consequences. Last year you made history by creating the largest marine protected area in the world, in the Ross Sea.
My photographs of the waters of the East Antarctic reveal an extraordinary environment, rich in life. You made history before, you can and must do it again, by this year designating an East Antarctic Marine Protected Area.
Our mission here is clear – to do everything to ensure that East Antarctica becomes the next area in a network of Marine Protected Areas in the Southern Ocean, in keeping with our #Antarctica2020 vision.
But it is not the only issue that is important to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition – climate change, marine debris, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, threats to krill fisheries and many other issues. You can read all the papers we have submitted to the CCAMLR meeting this year here.
The CCAMLR meeting runs for the next two weeks and we hope that we will see all of our hopes realised, especially the adoption of an East Antarctic Marine Protected Area. We will keep you updated as we go.