Australia puts case for Antarctic reserve

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Australian Antarctic policy makers and scientists on Thursday put forward the case to establish an East Antarctic representative system of marine protected areas ( MPAs) to a Special Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Bremerhaven, Germany. The move was contained in a media release by Australian Minister for Climate Change and Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Water Mark Butler.

Australia’s delegation, led by Australian Antarctic Division Director Dr. Tony Fleming, has submitted a joint proposal together with France and the European Union for the East Antarctic MPA, which will be considered at the meeting along with the joint proposal of an MPA in the Ross Sea by New Zealand and the United States.

The proposal would designate an area 13 times the size of Britain as one in which natural resource exploitation, including fishing, would be illegal. Butler was quoted as saying that the East Antarctic MPA proposal is “a significant undertaking”.

“The seven areas included represent features as diverse as deep, underwater canyons to nursery areas for krill; from unique mollusc populations to foraging areas for penguins and marine mammals,”he said.

“The MPA also includes scientific reference areas where we can measure long-term changes and natural variability – essential pieces of information to ensure the conservation of key features and sustainability of fishing in the region,” he added.

“We have every confidence that what has been proposed will offer the most pragmatic solution to ensuring that key biogeographic regions have the protection they need and deserve.”

The Special Meeting in Germany has been convened from July 11 to 16 for the sole purpose of considering the two MPA proposals. A decision by the 25-member CCAMLR, expected on the last day of the meeting, will require unanimous agreement.

Butler said this was only the second time the CCAMLR had met outside its regular annual meeting, emphasising the importance that CCAMLR places on MPAs.

“Since the East Antarctic MPA was first put forward to CCAMLR in 2012, Australia and our French and EU colleagues have been working closely with CCAMLR Member countries to build support for the measure,” Butler said.

“Australia is very proud to stand behind this proposal and we remain committed to seeing through CCAMLR’s vision for the adoption of MPAs in the Southern Ocean.”