New alliance calls for unprecedented protection for Antarctica’s oceans

Wednesday, 29 February, 2012
Washington, DC

 The Antarctic Ocean Alliance, an international collective of environmental organizations and high-profile supporters, have come together to call for the world’s largest network of marine protected areas and no-take marine reserves to be established to protect Antarctica’s Southern Ocean.

The Alliance’s public campaign “Join the Watch”, launched around the world today, is inviting a global audience to participate in the campaign and its call for Antarctic marine protection.

Alliance members and supporters include actor, activist and UN Biodiversity Ambassador Edward Norton, Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, as well as 16 environmental and conservation organizations including IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare), Greenpeace, WWF, Oceans 5 and Mission Blue.

The regulatory body responsible for this region – the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) – has agreed to create a network of marine protected areas in some of the ocean around Antarctica. However, CCAMLR meets with limited public participation and no media access and the Alliance believes that, without public attention during the process, only minimal protection will be achieved.

“The fate of the Antarctic marine environment is about to be decided and the world knows nothing about it,” said Alliance Campaign Director Steve Campbell. “Now is the time to protect this amazing environment but we’ll need the global public involved to make that happen.”

In agreeing to “Join the Watch”, Edward Norton said, “There’s a moment of opportunity here to apply pressure and send a signal that millions of people are watching this process and are saying, ’Don’t let us down.’”                                                                       

Antarctic waters make up almost 10% of the world’s seas and are some of the most pristine left on earth. Home to almost 10,000 unique and diverse species such as penguins, seals and whales, these waters are now at risk from the impacts of commercial fishing and climate change. The Alliance is calling for 19 critical habitats in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean to be protected, starting with the Ross Sea.

The group released a report in New Zealand yesterday (28 Feb) entitled: “Antarctic Ocean Legacy: A marine reserve for the Ross Sea” at a reception for Parliamentarians in Wellington. The report provides the rationale for protection of the Ross Sea region. The Antarctic Ocean Alliance proposal builds on and strengthens the current Ross Sea scenarios of the US and New Zealand governments, encompassing three additional areas with environmental features and critical habitats for the protection of this unique ocean ecosystem. If established, it would be the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve, totalling 3.6 million square kilometres.

“The waters of Antarctica have become attractive for industrial scale fishing because fish close to where people live really don’t exist in large numbers anymore,” said Dr. Sylvia Earle. “We know we have a problem, we now need to do something about it – that’s why we are calling on people to “Join the Watch” to help protect this amazing environment.”

The Alliance is launching a video today featuring interviews with Edward Norton and Sylvia Earle asking the public to sign a petition to CCAMLR calling for large-scale marine protection for Antarctica and “Join the Watch”.

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