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Two important science-based proposals for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) will be discussed at the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) on 23 October – 1 November 2013, in Hobart, Australia. The meeting is expected to adopt the two proposals – one by Australia, France and the European Union for a network of MPAs in East Antarctica and another one by New Zealand-United States on the Ross Sea region.
The EU and its partners want to give these vulnerable areas the protection they deserve – in recognition of their global ecological and scientific importance. In a joint declaration the EU, US, France, Australia and New Zealand today call for the adoption of the proposed marine protected areas at the CCAMLR annual meeting.
What is CCAMLR?
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is an international body established in 1982 with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life. It has 25 Members and 11 countries that have acceded to the Convention. The European Union (EU) is a full member of this organisation, represented by the European Commission. The following EU Member States are also members of CCAMLR: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
What is a Marine Protected Area (MPA)?
An MPA is a designated area where specific rules are adopted which aim at managing human activities, such as research or fishing, for the protection and conservation of marine biodiversity in that area. Thus, different rules apply in different MPAs depending on the management objectives chosen.
CCAMLR is considered a forerunner among Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) with its proactive attitude regarding conservation. In 2009, on the basis of an EU proposal, the first MPA established within CCAMLR convention area was the South Orkney Island Southern Shelf, where only scientific fishing is authorised.
What is the history of the EU proposal for an East Antarctic Representative System of Marine Protected Areas?
The initial proposal was developed by Australia, France and the EU in 2010 using extensive scientific evidence. In 2011 it was presented to CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee which endorsed it and established that it contained the best scientific evidence available.
The proposal was then submitted for adoption to the 2012 CCAMLR Annual Meeting, where no consensus was reached. Its importance was further underlined when CCAMLR Members agreed to hold a Special Meeting in Germany in July 2013 to discuss the issue, although again no consensus was found.
What is the objective of this proposal?
The objective is to declare seven conservation zones in Eastern Antarctica in order to establish a system which is representative for all biogeographic areas and based on the best scientific evidence available. The selected areas are home to a distinctive water flora and fauna. A wide range of sea marine mammals, penguins and other seabirds find important feeding grounds here. Other areas serve as nursery grounds of Antarctic krill, Antarctic toothfish and Antarctic silverfish.
The proposed MPAs have an important role to play in research in order to better understand the effects of fishing outside the MPAs as well as for climate change related research. The total surface of the proposed MPAs is approximately 1.63 million square kilometres (slightly less than half the size of the territory of the EU).
Why are MPAs important?
Nature conservation and fisheries management are the main reasons why MPAs are established.
The use of MPAs for conservation has increased in parallel with the growing global recognition of the need to safeguard the marine environment. According to FAO, protected areas have a long history and predate the MPA concept by several decades. Measures such as area and time restrictions for protection of a component of a fish stock or community, e.g. adult spawning grounds or juvenile nursery areas, are considered types of MPA. With the increasing trend of applying an ecosystem based approach to fisheries, MPAs with broader combined objectives for ecosystem management are likely to become more commonplace.
Governments made a commitment at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 to create a representative network of MPAs by 2012. In 2010, the Conference of the Parties of the Convention of Biodiversity adopted its Aichi Targets relating to biodiversity which included the establishment of MPAs. The aim was to ensure that by 2020, 10% of coastal and marine areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services would be conserved through effectively and equitably managed marine protected areas. In 2012, the global community confirmed this goal at Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
What activities are allowed in MPAs?
The MPAs are governed by the principle of ‘multiple use’: activities that do not represent a threat to the values of conservation and research of the MPAs can be approved by the CCAMLR Commission. When reviewing proposed activities, CCAMLR has to take full account of the recommendations and advice of the Scientific Committee.
Is there reason for optimism?
For more than 30 years CCAMLR has been a leading force in marine conservation. The EU is confident that CCAMLR can regain its visionary political leadership and establish a network of MPAs in the Southern Ocean. The time has come to work together, constructively and with determination towards the adoption of MPAs.
For more information and maps of the proposed areas:
Commissioner Maria Damanaki’s announcement on Joint Statement on Marine Protected Areas in Antarctica: MEMO/13/901
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