The Antarctic Ocean needs your help
This post appeared first on Lack of Environment on Monday; and is re-published here today with the permission (and active editorial co-operation!) of Martin Lack. If you have not signed the Avaaz petition already, you will find links to it embedded in the email message at the end of this post (from Hollywood megastar Leonardo diCaprio).
I must admit that I thought the Antarctic Treaty System protected the species living in the Great Southern Ocean – by virtue of the 1982 Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCMLR). However, it would seem that, in the same way that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has not eliminated trade in ivory (etc), it may be that the CCMLR is failing to protect endangered species in the Antarctic. The key to this paradox may therefore be in the word “Conservation”. If so, what the Antarctic Ocean would need is an equivalent to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991). However, looking at that Protocol it already appears to include the entire Southern Ocean above a Latitude of 60 Degrees South. If so, then you might conclude that 1991 Protocol is not working or not being enforced effectively. Sadly, it would appear to be more sinister than that.
Some of the parties to the existing CCMLR are clearly trying to subvert it!
Following receipt of an email from Leonardo diCaprio (writing on behalf of Avaaz) – appended below – I have retrieved the information below from the website of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, which provides some useful background…
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 almost 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, oil drilling and overfishing, Antarctica’s Ross Sea remains the most intact marine ecosystem on the planet.
4. About 70% of our earth’s surface is ocean, yet less than 1% of it is fully protected from human development.
5. 85% of the world’s fisheries are classified as over exploited, fully exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion, so commercial fishing vessels are moving to remote waters such as Antarctica’s in search of fish (according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation).
6. Antarctica’s species are now under increasing pressure from commercial fishing for the slow-growing and long-lived Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish, (also known in parts of the world as the Chilean sea bass). These toothfish have become an expensive delicacy, sold in high-end restaurants as well as speciality seafood markets, primarily in the United States, Japan and Europe.
7. Fishing by illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) vessels, often using “flags of convenience” is on the rise. In some parts of the Southern Ocean, unsustainable fishing methods such as deep sea gillnets are in use in some areas. These gillnets can reach more than 100 kilometres in length and are a threat to almost all marine life, including marine mammals and non-targeted fish species such as rays.
8. Then there’s krill – an essential part of the food chain that supports the region’s whales, penguins, seals, fish and birdlife. Growing demand for krill as a health supplement and as food for fish farms has put it at risk. Climate change has already been linked to a significant decline in krill numbers – up to 80% in one region around the Scotia Sea (Atkinson et al 2004).
9. Poor management and the large-scale removal of toothfish and species like krill would threaten the very balance of Antarctica’s unique and fragile ocean ecosystems.
10. In 1991, the international community made a courageous decision to protect the Antarctic region as a natural reserve for peace and science. This included a ban on mining but this protection does not extend to Antarctica’s magnificent marine environment, leaving it at risk.
I shall leave it to Leonardo diCaprio to explain the whole story:
I’m writing to ask for your help. Within days, governments could begin turning wide stretches of the Antarctic ocean into the world’s largest marine sanctuary, saving the habitat of whales, penguins, and thousands of other polar species from industrial fishing fleets. But they won’t act unless we speak out now.
Most countries support the sanctuary, but Russia, South Korea and a few others are threatening to vote it down so they can plunder these seas now that others have been fished to death. This week, a small group of negotiators will meet behind closed doors to make a decision. A massive people-powered surge could break open the talks, isolate those attempting to block the sanctuary, and secure a deal to protect over 6 million square kilometers of the precious Antarctic ocean.
The whales and penguins can’t speak for themselves, so it’s up to us to defend them. Let’s change negotiators’ minds with a massive wave of public pressure – Avaaz will surround the meeting with hard-hitting ads, and together we’ll deliver our message to delegates via a deafening cry on social networks. Sign this urgent petition and share it with everyone you know:
More than 10,000 species call these remote Antarctic waters their home, including blue whales, leopard seals, and emperor penguins, and many are found nowhere else on Earth. Climate change has already taken a cruel toll on their fragile habitat, but they will come under further threat from the industrial fishing fleet’s mile-long nets cast over these precious waters. Only a marine sanctuary will increase their odds for survival.
The 25-member governing body that regulates the Antarctic oceans has already committed to creating these marine protected areas. But the two plans being negotiated — one to protect part of the fragile Ross Sea and one for East Antarctica — are at risk of dilution or delay. Shockingly, the talks have been off the media’s radar and countries like Russia and South Korea are betting their opposition will go unnoticed, but if we cast a public spotlight on the talks we can force them to back off, and encourage champions like the US and EU to push for even stronger protections.
The future of the Southern ocean is in our hands. Let’s unleash a massive surge of global pressure and ensure governments don’t put profits before our planet. Please sign and share this petition with everyone you know:
The Avaaz community has come together time and time again to protect our oceans. We’ve already helped win two of the largest marine reserves in the world. But the threats to our oceans continue, and one by one species are coming closer to the brink. Join me in saving the Antarctic ocean before it’s too late.
Leonardo DiCaprio, with the Avaaz team.