Australia, the EU and now the US are at the forefront of escalating international efforts to secure new protection for the Antarctic’s Southern Ocean.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley was the first of 15 nations to speak at an online European Union conference last night championing the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) over key areas of the Southern Ocean in East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea, and the Antarctic Peninsula region.
Led by European Union Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Mr Virginijus Sinkevičius, the meeting saw Presidential Envoy for Climate of the United States of America John Kerry sign his nation to the cause, joining the likes of France, Germany, Norway, United Kingdom and Uruguay.
The meeting agreed to encourage all 26 nation members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to support the MPA proposals and affirm their commitment to protecting the Southern Ocean from climate change and other human impacts.
Australia and France developed the East Antarctic MPA proposal, and first tabled it in 2012 with the EU, and Minister Ley has since championed for it strongly through CCAMLR.
Co-sponsors of the East Antarctic and Weddell Sea MPA proposals now include Australia, the EU and its member States, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom, Uruguay and the United States of America.
“We call on more CCAMLR Members to join as co-sponsors of both the East Antarctic MPA and Weddell Sea MPA proposals and more broadly, to work together for the urgent establishment of a representative system of MPAs,” Minister Ley said.
“The proposed system of MPAs would protect distinctive seabed biodiversity such as deep-water reefs, and important feeding areas for marine mammals, penguins and other seabirds. Large-scale MPAs are also an important tool in building ocean and ecosystem resilience to impacts of climate change.
“It is hard to imagine a better way to celebrate 40 years of CCAMLR than to give the world the gift of the protection for one of the world’s great natural treasures at its meeting this October.
“The leadership of the EU and now the support of the US and other countries will add significant weight to this important topic which underlines the importance of the Morrison Government’s commitment to Oceans Leadership.
“Our oceans are our environment, and we will continue to champion their protection.”