Agreement on Antarctic marine park signed

The Guardian reports, 28th October 2016: More than 1.5m sq km of the Ross Sea around Antarctica will be protected under the deal brokered between 24 countries and the European Union. It means 1.1m sq km of it — an area about the size of France and Spain combined — will be set aside as a no-take “general protection zone”, where no fishing will be allowed. The protections are set to expire in 35 years.

The agreement came at the conclusion of discussions between delegates from 24 countries and the EU in Hobart, at the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

It is the first marine park created in international waters and will set a precedent for further moves to help the world achieve the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s recommendation that 30% of the world’s oceans be protected.

The Antarctic protections had been urgently sought because of the importance of the Southern Ocean to the world’s natural resources. For example, scientists have estimated that the Southern Ocean produces about three-quarters of the nutrients that sustain life in the rest of the world’s oceans. The region is also home to most of the world’s penguins and whales.
The Ross Sea is a deep bay in the Southern Ocean that many scientists consider to be the last intact marine ecosystem on Earth — a living laboratory ideally suited for investigating life in the Antarctic and how climate change is affecting the planet.

A map released by WWF showing the protected area of the Ross Sea

A map released by WWF showing the protected area of the Ross Sea

The protections will not decrease the total amount of fish that are allowed to be caught in the Ross Sea, but it will move the industry away from the most crucial habitats close to the continent itself.

Russia has an industry catching Antarctic toothfish there and the changes will push the fleet into waters where they will catch fewer immature fish, and where they won’t compete with as many orcas, who also rely on toothfish for food.

The agreement also establishes a large 322,000sq km “krill research zone” that will allow for research catching of krill, but prohibit toothfish catching. Additionally, a 110,000 sq km “special research zone” will be established on the outside of the no-take zone, allowing catching of krill and toothfish only for research purposes.

Source: The Guardian, 28th October 2016. For the full details, see www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/28/worlds-largest-marine-park-created-in-ross-sea-in-antarctica-in-landmark-deal

 


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