IUCN deeply regrets that no new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were declared by the thirty first meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), despite Members’ commitment to do so. This is deeply unfortunate at a time when pressures on polar regions are higher than ever from growth in human activities such as resource extraction, shipping, and tourism. Combined with climate change and ocean acidification, there is an increasing need to ensure that ecosystem resilience and integrity is maintained and strengthened through such area-based measures.
CCAMLR Members met from 22 October to 1 November in Hobart, Tasmania, to discuss inter alia the development of a system of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean. Decisions were expected this year on proposals for MPAs in the Ross Sea and in East Antarctica. Despite years of preparation and efforts, decisions were postponed. IUCN is deeply disappointed that CCAMLR members were not able to reach consensus for the establishment of MPAs in these regions after such significant groundwork had already been put in place.
CCAMLR members have been committed to develop a system of MPAs in the Southern Ocean by 2012, in accord with the global deadline of the MPA target agreed upon at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. CCAMLR members had accepted their obligation to implement the objective of their Convention, which is the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources, including rational use. Over the last seven years, CCAMLR Members have identified several regions of the Southern Ocean that warrant high levels of protection – areas that may serve as scientific reference areas for monitoring natural variability and long-term change or for monitoring the effects of harvesting and other human activities or protection of key ecosystem processes, habitats and species, including populations and life-history stages.
CCAMLR, as one of the few regional management bodies, is balancing the maintenance of the ecological relationships between harvested, dependent and related populations of Antarctic marine living resources, the prevention of changes in the marine ecosystem, and resource harvesting. At last year’s meeting, all members adopted a new Conservation Measure (91-04) providing a General Framework for the establishment of a network of MPAs. This has been a very important step to guide and harmonize the ongoing work of CCAMLR members and the Commission on MPAs.
Discussions at the CCAMLR meeting also focused on time-limiting MPAs. IUCN is deeply concerned that MPAs should not become short-term and temporary management arrangements. MPAs need to be managed in perpetuity as benefits and resilience, including the ability to adapt to climate change and the provision of scientific reference data, grows over time; an 'investment' that would be wiped out by even short-term abolishment of MPAs and the introduction of any fishing particularly in cold-water regions with fragile and vulnerable marine ecosystems. This position is further explained in the IUCN Guidelines for applying the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories to Marine Protected Areas (supplementary to the 2008 Guidelines) released last month. The future management of Antarctica requires sound and long-term MPAs.
IUCN hopes that countries will be able to resolve satisfactorily current issues at the special inter-sessional meeting to be held in July 2013 in Germany. This special meeting is the second only in the history of CCAMLR.