Crucial meeting could expand protection of Antarctic waters

Crucial meeting could expand protection of Antarctic waters

Source: China Dialogue Ocean

Author: Fermín Koop

Hopes are high this month’s CCAMLR meeting will extend Southern Ocean protection, despite pandemic disruption.

Environmental meetings this year have largely been postponed amid the pandemic, but a crucial one remains on the table. Twenty-five countries and the EU will meet online later this month to vote on extending protection of the Southern Ocean.

The use of resources in the region is regulated by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). In 2002, the commission agreed to create a network of marine protected areas (MPAs), in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 14.6 to protect 10% of the global ocean.

CCAMLR member states took the first big step in 2009 when they agreed on an MPA to cover 94,000 km2 below the South Orkney Islands. Then, in 2016, the commission successfully negotiated the world’s largest marine park, covering 1.55 million km2 in the Ross Sea. (It’s called a marine park because unlike a permanent MPA, its status will need to be renewed after 35 years.)

“Very few times is there an opportunity to bend history and change the trajectory. Today is an opportunity for that,” said Lewis Pugh, UN patron of the oceans. “Now is the time for Antarctica to be set aside for peace, science and for wildlife. When we go there, we go as guests.”

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