Australian Antarctic Division Director, Dr Tony Fleming. (Photo Credit: Richard Bennett)
A final decision about to be taken on two huge Antartic marine sanctuaries
Wednesday, October 23, 2013, 02:10 (GMT + 9)
The creation of two huge marine havens covering about three million square kilometres is one of the issues to be analysed this week by the Commission for the Conservation of Antartic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) during the annual meeting to be held in Hobart, Australia.
The European Union (EU), France and Australia support a prospective 1.6 square kilometre marine reserve proposal in East Antartica, where fishing to some extent would be allowed, if approved.
In addition, New Zealand and the United States support a proposal for a protected zone in the Ross Sea, comprising a surface that was reduced by almost 40 per cent compared to the initial plan, to 1.25 square kilometres, due to the pressure from Russia and Ukrania during the CCAMLR's above-mentioned meeting.
If the proposals are approved, it would mean that the world’s marine protected areas (MPAs) would double in size.
However, the efforts to reach an agreement have been damped by both China and Russia’s opposition due to these countries' worries regarding fishing access being restricted if the reserves are approved. Russia has profitable fishing licenses in Antartica.
Dr. Tony Fleming, Antartic Division director and Australia’s delegation leader pointed out that: "Some CCAMLR members have sought more time to give such a major proposal serious consideration but many members, including Australia, maintain that CCAMLR is ready to move forward and establish the east Antarctic MPA."
"The east Antarctic MPA has been designed for multiple uses - so that key conservation goals can sit side by side with continuing access to these areas," he went on to add.
The initiative will be closely followed by conservationist NGOs, which will prompt both the EU and the 24 participating countries to take advantage of this unique chance to provide protection to one of the last untouched wildernesses in the world. NGOs lobbying in favour of the reserve will be led by the Antartic Ocean Alliance (AOA), reports ABC.
Marine scientists, natural resource managers, politicians and diplomats participating in this meeting will remain in Hobart until Friday 1 November. During this meeting, they will have the responsibility to make crucial decisions about the conservation and management of living resources of the Southern Ocean, which covers about 10 per cent of the Earth's surface.
According to the president of the Working Group for Fish Stock Assessment, Dr. Mark Belchier, a marine ecologist with a marine ecologist with the British Antarctic Survey, 'One of the main tasks for this year’s meeting is to set sustainable catch limits for toothfish and icefish in those parts of the Southern Ocean where they are targeted by fisheries managed by CCAMLR’.
By Gabriela Raffaele