Scientists call for giant new marine sanctuary in Antarctica
Australia and France kick off a fresh push Monday to create a vast marine sanctuary in pristine East Antarctica, hoping to build on the success of a landmark deal secured last year at a key annual conservation summit.
The fate of the plan to shield critical areas of ocean around the frozen continent rests with the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which meets in Hobart, Tasmania until October 27.
In a major breakthrough, agreement was reached in 2016 to establish the world's largest reserve after Russia dropped its long-held opposition over fishing rights.
But it has been sent back for amendments and will not be a main agenda item this year.
However, a proposal for a fourth zone of 94,000 square kilometers around the Western Antarctic Peninsula is set to be presented by Argentina and Chile, conservationists told AFP.
Proposed and agreed on Antarctic sanctuaries. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources is a treaty tasked with overseeing conservation and sustainable exploitation of the Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean
CCAMLR is a treaty tasked with overseeing conservation and sustainable exploitation of the Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean.
Consensus is needed from all 24 member countries and the European Union.
Antarctica is home to penguins, seals, Antarctic toothfish, whales and huge numbers of krill, a staple food for many species.
They are considered critical for scientists to study how marine ecosystems function and to understand the impacts of climate change on the ocean.
The East Antarctica plan originally comprised seven large marine areas but has been reduced to three as a compromise - MacRobertson, Drygalski, and the D'Urville Sea-Mertz region.
D'Urville would be a no-catch zone, which WWF said would aid a stricken Adélie penguin colony near the French Antarctic research station there.
Mass starvation wiped out thousands of chicks in the colony this year, with unusually thick sea ice linked to the break up of the Mertz glacier forcing their parents to forage further for food. Only two survived.
'The death of so many Adélie penguin chicks shows just how tough life can be in Antarctica,' said WWF Antarctic program manager Chris Johnson.
'The last thing these penguins need is more pressure.
'That's why it's crucial CCAMLR locks in an MPA in East Antarctica to help secure a future for Adélie penguins and all the other amazing wildlife and marine biodiversity.'
He added that 'expectations are running high for another significant achievement this year'.
Also on the agenda will be discussion on a research and monitoring plan to oversee the implementation of the Ross Sea MPA so scientists can better understand how it affects the ecosystem's health.