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Antarctic Species Would Benefit from Marine Protections

Spectacular Antarctic Species That Would Benefit From Comprehensive Marine Protections,
Spotlight on Species Leading Into 33rd Antarctic Marine Conference

London 17.09.14: The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) launched a new report today, highlighting a small sample of the thousands of resilient species that call the pristine Southern Ocean home. Thirty-three days before the 33rd annual Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resource (CCAMLR meeting), the new report, “33 Species We Love and Must Protect” serves as a symbolic reminder that in order to continue research and discovery in Antarctica and protect many vulnerable and unique species, there must be commitment to preservation through enhanced protection.

“For the past three CCAMLR meetings, we have hoped for action on marine protection in Antarctica’s waters, promised by CCAMLR to have been in place by 2012. Unfortunately, there have been three years of inactivity,” said Mark Epstein, Executive Director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition. “This year provides another opportunity for global leaders to live up to their promises and to take action on marine protection. The time is now. This report helps to put in perspective exactly why we are trying to achieve this. These species, along with thousands of others, are at risk. “

The Southern Ocean’s virtually pristine marine ecosystem is teeming with life. Species inhabiting Antarctica’s frigid waters, from well-known orcas, leopard seals, albatross and penguins, to lessor known species like copepods, bone-eating worms and the literal core of the Southern Ocean food web, krill, are vital to understanding its complex food web, and there is little doubt that countless species have yet to be discovered.

“As more studies detail the rate of warming in Antarctica, it is clear we need to do all we can to protect the diversity of species found on the continent and in its waters,” said Andrea Kavanagh, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Antarctic conservation campaign. “Penguins, krill, and seals can’t afford another year of inaction. The best way to ensure resilience to a changing climate is to create large marine reserves that protect all species. We are looking to CCAMLR to approve the marine reserve proposals for the Ross Sea and waters off East Antarctica this year.”

Over the next 33 days, AOA will promote one highlighted species each day via AOA’s Facebook page and website. The postings will inform supporters of fascinating facts about the species covered, as well as point them toward the petition that has already collected more than 310,000 signatures in support of marine protection in the Southern Ocean. In addition, there is a web-based postcard tool that will allow supporters to email a message of support for marine protection to key decision makers around the world in the lead up to CCAMLR 33.

“If you think of the ocean as the heart the planet, the real heart is this glistening continent, Antarctica, where all the oceans of the world converge. If Antarctica is changed - and it is changing – the effects resonate throughout the whole planet, ” says marine biology pioneer Sylvia Earle in support of Antarctic Ocean Alliance work.

The report includes an introduction by marine biology pioneer Sylvia Earle, whose vast and intimate knowledge of our oceans provides an experienced and valid voice on the serious decline of our oceans’ health and the need to protect the practically undisturbed waters surrounding Antarctica.

“Antarctica is one of the world’s last untouched wildernesses and home to thousands of highly adapted species, many of which can be found nowhere else on the planet,” said Bob Zuur, manager of WWF’s Antarctica program. “A network of large-scale, permanent marine protected areas in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica would build on the spirit of political cooperation in the Antarctic Treaty and create a lasting legacy for future generations.”

“MPAs and fully-protected marine reserves are the single most powerful tool that CCAMLR has for fulfilling its mandate and protecting the astounding array of Antarctica’s marine life and enabling the Southern Ocean ecosystem to best withstand the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification,” added Richard Page, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resource (CCAMLR), the consensus-based body made up of 24 countries and the European Union, will have another opportunity to create two large-scale, fully protected Southern Ocean marine reserves when they once again convene in Hobart, Tasmania, in October 2014. The proposals up for discussion would establish reserves in the waters of the Ross Sea and East Antarctica and if agreed upon, would create some of the world’s largest marine reserves. Although CCAMLR was established to protect the Southern Ocean, these two proposals have not passed in recent years due to Russian and Ukrainian opposition.

ENDS

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