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AOA calls on US and NZ to stand firm on Ross Sea protection

AOA calls on US and NZ to stand firm on Antarctic Ross Sea protection

WELLINGTON, 5 September 2013 –The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) called on the United States and New Zealand, proponents of a large--scale marine protected area (MPA) proposal for Antarctica’s Ross Sea, to stand strong in the face of opposition to protect this irreplaceable marine environment.

A joint US--NZ proposal to designate a Ross Sea MPA of 2.3 million square kilometres, including a "fully protected" area of 1.6 million square kilometres, was put forward last year but failed to gain support at a meeting of the 25 member states of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Bremerhaven, Germany in July.

According to a New Zealand media report (see below), diplomatic insiders fear a revised US--NZ plan would make radical cuts to the proposed MPA.

Antarctic waters make up about 10 percent of the world's seas and are home to almost 10,000 species, including penguins, whales and seals.

The Southern Ocean contains some of the most intact marine ecosystems left on Earth, and its nutrients are transported around the globe by deep ocean currents to sustain the majority of the world’s marine life.

It also provides scientists with a living laboratory to determine the impacts of global climate change.

CCAMLR is mandated to work for conservation and to act in a precautionary way.

"The 30 organisations that make the Antarctic Ocean Alliance would be deeply concerned that the US and New Zealand could be giving away too much, leaving us with a protected area that reduces protection for the Ross Sea, ” said the AOA’s Steve Campbell.

“That would mean missing the opportunity to protect some of the most critical and unique marine ecosystem while they are still intact.” “For the Ross Sea, giving up so much before securing the support of the countries that have opposed its protection would be a great strategic mistake that could mean we end up protecting very little,” said Jim Barnes, Executive Director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC).

“It would be a missed opportunity to retreat from US Secretary of State John Kerry’s commitment earlier this year to the Ross Sea,” said Andrea Kavanagh, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Southern Ocean sanctuaries project.

“We ask that US and New Zealand officials hold the line.

The Ross Sea is one of the most beautiful and pristine areas left on Earth and we are urging governments to protect it.” News reports suggest that a compromise to win support for a greatly reduced MPA proposal at the next meeting of CCAMLR in October might mean that large areas of the north, including key spawning areas and sea mounts, are stripped out of the proposed MPA.

Scientists believe these areas are important as the breeding ground for Antarctic toothfish and that the seamounts provide crucial habitat to a diverse range of Southern Ocean species.

The AOA has identified over 40 percent of the Southern Ocean in 19 habitats that warrant protection in a network of large--scale MPAs and no--take marine reserves based on combining existing marine protected areas, areas identified within previous conservation and planning analyses and including additional key environmental habitats.

ENDS

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