Antarctic Ocean Alliance

Forest and Bird has joined a coalition of environmental groups and notable individuals aiming to protect the biodiversity in Antarctica’s oceans through a network of marine reserves.

The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) recently released its first report, titled "Antarctic Ocean Legacy: A Vision for Circumpolar Protection."

 The AOA wants to create 19 no-take marine reserves in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica, to protect ecological areas and landforms such as rare seamounts and important breeding habitats for toothfish.

Sixteen environmental organisations have backed the proposal, including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Fast Facts 

•    The Southern Ocean constitutes roughly 10% of the global ocean, but less than 1% is protected in MPAs (marine protected areas) or marine reserves.

•    Almost 10,000 unique and diverse species live in the Southern Ocean, including Adelié and emperor penguins, Antarctic petrels, minke whales, colossal squid and Weddell seals.

•    85% of the world's fisheries are classified as over exploited, fully exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion, so commercial fishing vessels are moving to remote waters such as Antarctica's in search of fish

 

Creating a network of reserves will be protect a wide range of marine habitats and ecosystems, some of which are the most intact on the planet such as the Ross Sea and Weddell Sea.

These protected areas will provide refuge for whale, seal and fish populations that are still recovering from overexploitation, as well as protecting areas critical to the life-history stages of endemic species such as the toothfish – the region’s top fish predator.

The network of reserves will also facilitate the collection of data underpinning research into ecosystem function and environmental change, including the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.

Along with the report, the AOA has released a global "Join the Watch" campaign, which uses video and social media to rally support for this network of marine reserves.

The regulatory body responsible for the Ross Sea - the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources (CCAMLR) - has agreed to create protected areas in the Ross Sea, but the AOA argues that a larger protected area is needed.

The CCAMLR has limited public participation and no media access and the AOA believes that without sufficient public attention during the process of creating these protected areas, only minimal protection will be achieved.

Public awareness is crucial to gaining support for the Ross Sea reserves.