The oceans around Antarctica are the only oceans on this earth still relatively untouched by human activity. They are home to almost 10,000 unique and diverse species, many of which cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. But today the Antarctic waters are under threat. You can help us to ensure Antarctic Ocean habitats and wildlife are protected from human interference.
The Antarctic oceans are an essential ecosystem for the survival of Adelié and emperor penguins, Antarctic petrels and minke whales, Ross Sea killer whales, colossal squid and Weddell seals, to name a few.
Antarctica’s Southern Ocean is a critical laboratory for scientists studying the effects of climate change as the global impacts increase and threaten the region.
AOA’s new report, Mapping Progress Toward Antarctic Marine Protection, summarises information from previous reports about the case for designating MPAs and no-take marine reserves in East Antarctica, the Ross Sea, the Weddell Sea, and the Antarctic Peninsula. For all of these areas, AOA recommends protection of areas of sufficient size to cover large-scale ecosystem processes that are critical for habitat and species protection. Areas should also collectively capture a wide and representative range of habitats and ecosystems and include key biodiversity hot spots. These include pelagic areas like offshore polynyas and seafloor features such as seamounts, ridges and troughs. The proposals encompass breeding and foraging grounds, areas critical to the life-history stages of penguins, seals and other endemic predator species such as the Antarctic toothfish.
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance 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 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.
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance has prepared the following booklet for delegates to CCAMLR who will decide the fate of two key Southern Ocean protection proposals – one for the Ross Sea and one for East Antarctica – in late October and early November 2013. The AOA took the opportunity to remind CCALMR that more than 1.3 million people around the world have called on delegates to act and protect this unique ocean environment.
As part of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance’s (AOA) proposal to designate marine protected areas (MPA) and marine reserves across 19 regions around Antarctica, the AOA today launched its new report titled Antarctic Ocean Legacy: Towards Protection of the Weddell Sea Region. The findings of the report aim to contribute towards ongoing scientific and policy work – currently led by Germany and Russia – on the region, which is located south of the Atlantic Ocean. The Weddell Sea region is renowned for having one of the most intact ecosystems left on earth and for being a major engine of global ocean circulation.
The AOA has identified over 40% of the Southern Ocean that warrants protection and the Alliance has called for the establishment of the world’s largest network of Marine Protected Areas and no-take marine reserves to protect 19 key Antarctic marine habitats.
While other marine ecosystems are threatened and devastated by development, pollution, mining, oil drilling and overfishing, Antarctica’s Ross Sea remains one of the most intact on the planet – the ocean equivalent of Africa’s Great Plains.
This AOA report outlines a vision for marine protection in the East Antarctic, a remote area that is home to a significant proportion of the Southern Ocean’s penguins, seals and whales. The area’s coastal region also contains large seafloor and oceanographic features found nowhere else on the planet.
The oceans around Antarctica are some of the most precious in the world. They’re one of the last places on Earth still relatively untouched by human activity.
1. This beautiful, icy ocean environment is home to nearly 10,000 species, many of which can be found nowhere else on the planet.
2. Adelié and emperor penguins, Antarctic petrels and minke whales, Ross Sea killer whales, colossal squid and Weddell seals all thrive in this inhospitable climate.
3. While many other marine ecosystems in other parts of the world have been devastated by development, pollution, mining and over-fishing, many of Antarctica’s ocean habitats remain intact with all of their predator species still thriving.
4. About 70% of our earth’s surface is ocean, yet less than 1% of the high seas beyond national jurisdiction is fully protected from human development.
5. Evidence shows that much of the global ocean has been fished to dangerously low levels. About a third of commercial fisheries are overexploited and a further half fully exploited. For some large fish species such as tuna and swordfish, up to 90% of their stocks have disappeared. Some stocks are at a tipping point, and may not recover (source: Global Ocean Commission).
6. Antarctica’s wildlife is now under increasing pressure from commercial fishing and climate change.
7. Many of the Southern Ocean’s habitats are unique and distinct from others in the region, demonstrating incredible diversity of life in this icy climate.
8. The Ross Sea, an area that is frozen over throughout the Antarctic winter, produces large phytoplankton blooms as ocean temperatures warm, which grow so large that they are visible from space.
9. Oceanographer Sylvia Earle calls Antarctica’s Southern Ocean the heart of the world’s oceans because it is a driver of the rest of the world’s oceanic and atmospheric systems. Some 70% of the Earth’s fresh water is locked up in the Antarctic ice sheets.
10. Climate change is already having an impact on the Antarctic environment, particularly in the Antarctic peninsula region, one of the fastest warming areas on earth. The Southern Ocean and Antarctica’s relatively untouched environment provide a critical laboratory for scientists researching global warming. Creation of large marine reserves in the Ross Sea and elsewhere would create important global climate reference areas.
As the world’s oceans continue to run out of fish, due to decades of overfishing, more and more fishing vessels are traveling a long way to remote areas to fill their holds. Commercial harvesting in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, particularly of species such as krill and the slow-growing and longlived Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish (also known as Chilean sea bass) is controversial. Some scientists believe that continued commercial harvesting of toothfish will significantly alter their ocean habitats, but as distant water fishing fleets run out of fish elsewhere, their attention will turn to Antarctica’s “white gold”.
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) is a coalition of leading environmental and conservation organisations working to establish a network of designated, no-take marine reserves and marine protected areas in the Antarctic. This will be the most comprehensive regime of its kind on the planet. With such a network in place, key Antarctic ocean habitats and wildlife would be protected from human interference.
These supporters are just some of many who are working to establish a network of designated, no-take marine reserves and marine protected areas in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean.