In the coming weeks a decision will be made in Bremerhaven about whether two of the largest marine protection areas in the world can be established in the Antarctic. The topic is on the agenda of a Special Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Resources (CCAMLR), which is taking place at the invitation of the German government on 15 and 16 July in the German coastal city. 30 leading environmental organisations which are affiliated to the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) are calling for Germanyto take the political lead in international marine protection.
“Prerequisites for a successful outcome from the negotiations in Bremerhaven are a strong political lead by the host country and improved international collaboration,” says Steve Campbell, Campaign Director of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance. German support is seen as an invaluable asset, since the forthcoming meeting offers a unique opportunity to the international community “to show vision in marine protection”. Campbell judges Germany’s role in this to be of particular importance since the country’s good relations with Russia, Norway and China could contribute to consensus in Bremerhaven, so as to reach a positive decision.
The last meeting of the Antarctic protection commission for the establishment of protection areas in the Antarctic was in November 2012 in Australia and failed because of reluctance from Russia, China and Ukraine. It was then decided to hold a Special Meeting about the so called “Marine Protected Areas” (MPAs) on 15 and 16 July in Bremerhaven.
The aim of the Meeting is to reach a decision regarding the proposed establishment of two protected areas in the Ross Sea and in the coastal regions of the eastern Antarctic. If the proposal is successful, delegates could create a significant foundation for global environmental protection, in that the marine protected areas would then be the largest conservation areas in the world, roughly half the size of Europe. .
The “last ocean”, as some scientists call the Ross Sea in the southern Antarctic because of its originality, remains one of the world’s oceans least affected by climate change, overfishing and industrial pollution. As a critical climate reference area and climate refuge for ice dependent species, the waters of the Antarctic have a crucial scientific function. For this reason, the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Antarctic has been intensively investigating the Weddell Sea, to the protection of which the German government committed itself back in 2012. Like the Ross Sea and the eastern Antarctic, the Weddell Sea is one of a total of nine planning regions in the CCAMLR designated area of the whole Antarctic Ocean.
The Antarctic Ocean comprises ten percent of the world’s oceans.