Again no protected area in Antarctica | Polarjournal
The Weddell Sea is a year-round ice-covered adjacent sea of the Southern Ocean and covers approximately 2.8 million square kilometers. Almost all known animal species found in Antarctica live in the Weddell Sea or along its edges. Germany and other states have been demanding its protection since 2016. Picture: Michael Wenger

The Antarctic Treaty actually provides for the protection of this last great wilderness. No military or economic actions beyond the 60th Latitude south are intended to disturb nature. To this end, several expert working groups and commissions have been set up, including the CCAMLR, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. This is to ensure that the marine areas around Antarctica are not overly affected by human activities and that a careful use of marine resources is implemented, including protected areas. However, once again, at this year’s meeting, the members of CCAMLR were unable to agree on the establishment of protected areas.

Again, it was Russia and China that spoke out against a protected area in the panel, as reported by the dpa. Their concerns that such an area would be a hindrance to limited Antarctic fishing could not be disproved once again by experts of the proponent countries. “The topic is very complex, and it is difficult to discuss this on a virtual level,” explains Stefan Hain of the Alfred Wegener Institute. “We need to remove the prejudices and concerns of Russia and China.” The experts now have another year to do so until the CCAMLR will meet again.

The establishment of protected areas in Antarctica has been alos attempted in recent years in the Ross Sea, with the same negative result. The proposals regularly fail because decisions in the CCAMLR have to be taken unanimously. And so far, there has always been at least one country that voted against and did not allow itself to be reconciled. Bad news for the animals around Antarctica. Picture: Michael Wenger

“We are running out of time”

Timo Packeiser, WWF

For environmental groups, the attitude of Russia and China, which in the past have opposed virtually all attempts to establish protected areas, is a sign of irresponsibility. “Both countries refuse to protect the fragile habitat of Antarctica and want to continue to exploit it ruthlessly,” complains Thilo Maack of Greenpeace Germany. The WWF also believes that this attitude no longer has a place in the protection efforts. “We are running out of time,” says WWF expert, Timo Packeiser. In addition to climate change, also pollution and illegal fishing, especially for krill, threaten the unique marine life of Antarctica. CCAMLR, on the other hand, writes on its website, it has made “significant progress towards a new approach to control krill fishing”. But the Commission is not more specific. On the remaining points that have been discussed, only small steps have been taken. For example, a ship has been added to the list of vessels involved in illegal fishing by Contracting States (a Russian notabene), but there are no consequences.

The CCAMLR meets annually for several days, usually in Hobart (Tasmania), to discuss and decide measures to protect the marine environment of Antarctica (Picture: Meeting 2018). Since 1982, the Commission has had 26 members and is currently presided over by Spain. Archive: Antarctic & Southern Ocean Coalition

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources was officially established in 1982 and consists of 26 members of the Antarctic Treaty Association. The Commission is currently presided over by Spain. Several expert working groups each year develop recommendations and proposals to protect the flora and fauna in the waters around Antarctica. Quotas and protocols are also established for fisheries, especially for krill and toothfish. Decisions in the panel must be taken unanimously at the annual meeting in Hobart. Many non-governmental organisations and groups are also involved in the meetings to promote and discuss their interests. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace, WWF and the ASOC (Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition) are particularly active in advocating for protected areas in Antarctica. This year, due to Corona, the meeting took place only virtually.

Dr MIchael Wenger, PolarJournal

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