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Ocean Elders call on Putin to protect Antarctica’s ocean

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Today Ocean Elders, including Sir Richard Branson, Dr. Sylvia Earle, James Cameron, Jean-Michel Cousteau and Capt. Don Walsh, wrote a letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin calling for the protection of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean at CCAMLR’s meeting in Germany 2013. Below is a copy of the letter:

Dear President Putin,

As you are aware, in Bremerhaven, Germany this week (July 11th – 16th) there will be a special meeting to consider marine protected area (MPA) proposals for the Ross Sea and several areas off the coast of East Antarctica. The Ross Sea remains one of the most intact marine ecosystems on the planet, with robust populations of whales, penguins, seals, albatrosses and other species. East Antarctica is a remote region of high ecological importance, home to a significant proportion of the Southern Ocean’s penguins, seabirds, seals and whales. Russia’s position will be crucial to the protection of these areas which are amongst the most iconic areas for marine wildlife on earth.

Russia was a founding member of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and has an extensive Antarctic exploration history as well as a long tradition of important scientific research. As such, Russia has a critical leadership role to play in determining the future of Antarctica.

CCAMLR’s 2009 decision to establish a network of MPAs was a bold and forward-looking step. Agreeing to designate meaningful MPAs at the CCAMLR meetings this year will help fulfill this commitment. If the Ross Sea and the East Antarctic marine protected areas are designated, they will be the largest in the world and would more than double in size the area of ocean that is afforded significant protection worldwide. This would reaffirm the leadership of CCAMLR member countries on marine conservation of the high seas and leave a substantial legacy for future generations.

The proposed MPAs in these regions offer all CCAMLR Members unprecedented research and monitoring opportunities for scientists to understand how large-scale, fully functioning ecosystems work, and also how such ecosystems are influenced by climate change and ocean acidification. Thus far, the Ross Sea and East Antarctica have been spared the impact of widespread pollution, invasive species, bottom trawling and other large-scale commercial fishing operations that are imperiling other marine areas around the world. But conditions are changing, and the need to take steps to better protect key areas in the Southern Ocean is compelling.

We hope that with your leadership Russia will support the Ross Sea and East Antarctica marine protected area proposals at the Bremerhaven meeting this week. We stand ready to assist in any way.

Kind regards,

Sir Richard Branson James Cameron Jean-Michel Cousteau
Dr. Sylvia Earle Capt. Don Walsh