Protecting Antarctica and the Southern Ocean
2013 was a crucial year for Southern Ocean protection. In July there was a special meeting in Bremerhaven, Germany to discuss proposals to protect the Ross Sea and parts of East Antarctica. Then in October there was the regular meeting of the Antarctic fisheries agreement CCAMLR.
The Southern Ocean and seas around Antarctica are among the most unmodified on the planet – and the last place on Earth still relatively untouched by human activity. This beautiful, icy ocean environment is home to nearly 10,000 highly adapted species, many of which can be found nowhere else on the planet. Adélie and emperor penguins, Antarctic petrels and minke whales, Ross Sea killer whales, colossal squid and Weddell seals all thrive in this inhospitable climate. Global ocean circulation is largely driven by the deep water formation around Antarctica’s coast, driving heat transfer and transporting essential nutrients to the rest of the world’s oceans.
The Ross Sea is especially important as the last of the oceans with the top predators still largely present. The risk is that continued toothfish fishing and other fishing will cause major upset to the ecosystem balance, as has happened elsewhere. ECO is joining with other groups in the Antarctic Oceans Alliance to protect this unique and special place and other important areas of the Southern Ocean. ECO Executive members were at last year’s IUCN Conservation Congress supporting a resolution on Antarctic protection which was passed during the Congress.
The February 2012 issue of ECOLink provides more details and explores the values and issues at stake, part of the opening of the international campaign for the protection of the Ross Sea.
In 2012 a unique portrait of the Ross Sea was shown during the film festival. The Last Ocean, which took 6 years of effort by documentary maker Peter Young to complete. This is a must see for all those concerned about the future of the Ross Sea and the Southern Ocean. The film is now being shown at international film festivals.
New Zealand and the US have agreed on a compromise proposal to protect the Ross Sea.
ECO is working with the Antarctic Ocean Alliance for protection of the Ross Sea and other important areas of the Southern Ocean.
ECO is working for more progress in 2014 on the adoption of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, including the Ross Sea.