SYDNEY – Australia reaffirmed on Monday its commitment to a proposal jointly promoted with the European Union to create a marine protected area in East Antarctica in order to mitigate the effects of fishing and climate change.
The proposal will be debated from Oct. 16-27 at the 36th annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), in Hobart, Tasmania, which brings together 24 member countries and the EU.
“Together with the European Union, we have further revised the proposal, clarifying where different fishing activities can occur and simplifying the objectives to make conservation outcomes clearer,” said Australia’s CCAMLR Commissioner Gillian Slocum.
Slocum noted that the CCAMLR decision in 2016 to approve the creation of a marine protected area (MPA) of about 1.5 million square kilometers in the Ross Sea, proposed by the United States and New Zealand, is encouraging.
“It is important we build on this momentum to create a system of marine protected areas to help us monitor and understand the effects of fishing and climate change on Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems,” she said.
The proposal, which has been on the commission’s table since 2011, initially included about 1.9 million square kilometers, but currently covers just under one million square kilometers in the MacRobertson land, Drygalski island and D’Urville-Mertz sea, in East Antarctica.
The plan also envisages the multiple use of marine protected areas, where activities, including fishing, will be permitted within the MPAs as long as they do not have an adverse impact on conservation or scientific objectives, according to the website of the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD).
The Southern Ocean and Antarctica Coalition (ASOC), made up of organizations such as Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), considered that the proposal should prohibit all fishing, including scientific fishing.
ASOC also seeks an indefinite protection period for East Antarctica, unlike the Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area that prevents fishing activities in the area for only 35 years to preserve krill, which is a vital food source for many Antarctic marine animals.
The other proposals to be discussed during the meeting include the creation of a marine protected area in the Weddell Sea, promoted by Germany and another similar project in the Antarctic Peninsula jointly proposed by Argentina and Chile.
Australia also hoped CCAMLR would adopt a “Climate Change Response Work Program” to improve consideration of climate change impacts on the work of the Commission and to make important revisions to conservation measures to ensure the sustainability of fisheries targeting toothfish, the statement added.