International Proposals to Expand Antarctic Marine Protected Areas Fail at CCAMLR

International Proposals to Expand Antarctic Marine Protected Areas Fail at CCAMLR

In Hobart (Tasmania), at its annual meeting, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) failed in its third attempt to adopt proposals that would have established the world’s largest marine protected area (MPA) in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean. On the agenda were two proposals: One sponsored by the U.S. and New Zealand to establish a 1.32 million km no-take zone in the Ross Sea; the other was a proposal from Australia, France and the EU for a 1.6 million km East Antarctic MPA network.

The proposals were the subject of an historic special meeting of CCAMLR in July held in Germany after CCAMLR failed to reach unanimity of its members at the 2012 annual meeting.

CCAMLR is comprised of 24 nations and the EU. Unanimity is required to adopt any proposal concerning preserves. Only Russia and the Ukraine actively blocked negotiations in favor of the proposals, while China withdrew its support for the East Antarctic MPA.

The controversy pits environmentalists, scientists and researchers against the commercial toothfish (a/k/a “Chilean Sea Bass”) industry. In addition to conservation efforts to protect the over 10,000 unique species that make their home in the Southern Ocean, scientists cite the region as crucial to studying how intact marine ecosystems function and to determine the impacts of global climate change.

The proposals were supported by the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, the Pew Charitable Trust, the Southern Ocean Coalition and became the focus of several social media efforts.

The failure of the proposals leaves some questioning CCAMLR’s ability to fulfill its raison d’etre of conserving the Antarctic marine ecosystems.

Consuelo Alden Vasquez, Esq.

Read more at from Pepper Hamilton LLP's Sustainability, CleanTech and Climate Change Team.

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