In Los Condes, Chile, Weren Decker, a Chilean artist also known as “Iceman,” formed a giant krill out of 15 blocks of ice weighing 120 kilograms each. The melting work of art was intended to call for the protection of Antarctica from the effects of global warming, the climate crisis and human exploitation.
The action was a plea from the Art collective Bla! at the request of the non-governmental organizations associated in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), which work to protect the integrity of Antarctic ecosystems from human exploitation. Within the Antarctic Treaty System, this task falls to CCAMLR, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
CCAMLR had invited government representatives from different countries to the Chilean capital Santiago de Chile from June 19-23, 2023, for its annual meeting to advance the achievement of three marine protected area (MPA) proposals in East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea, and the Antarctic Peninsula.
One of the goals is to meet the commitment made by the world’s governments in December 2022 to protect at least 30% of the oceans by 2030. In recent years, however, CCAMLR members had not succeeded in passing a single proposal to establish protected areas, but had only issued declarations of intent that they would continue to discuss the issue. The projects failed in each of the last six years due to objections from Russia and China.
To draw attention to the urgency of the situation for krill and the ice situation, ASOC had drafted and published an open letter to government officials in advance of the meeting, and at the same time had commissioned the ice krill as a reminder.
A little giant in danger
Krill is a crustacean that grows to between three and six centimeters in its natural size and is a fundamental species of the Antarctic marine environment. Besides its importance as an important food for whales, penguins and seals, the species also contributes significantly to the fixation of CO2 in the Southern Ocean. But due to rising ocean temperatures and climate change, krill is considered endangered. At the same time, there are efforts by some CCAMLR members, led by China and Norway, to increase exploitation of krill stocks around Antarctica. Therefore, the activists represented these threats with this 3 meter long and 2 meter wide ice sculpture.
Although the action of ASOC and the collective had attracted media attention, CCAMLR members appeared unimpressed. Once again, the meeting ended with the usual six-year declaration of intent to keep the discussion going, rather than the hoped-for establishment of a large-scale protected area in Antarctica.
Meanwhile, around Antarctica, it is not krill itself that is slowly continuing to melt, but its habitat, the sea ice. But in the end, experts warn, the result is the same for the little giant.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal
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