Hobart For two weeks, delegations from all over the world fought for Antarctica. Some are concerned with stricter fishing regulations and marine protection areas, others with economic interests. Again there was no breakthrough. Experts are increasingly frustrated.
The designation of new marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, urgently demanded by nature conservationists and researchers, has failed again. The 41st conference of the Antarctic Commission CCAMLR in Hobart, Australia ended on Friday evening (local time) without the hoped-for breakthrough, the Antarctic and Arctic Ocean Association (ASOC) announced. There was also no agreement on stricter fishing measures. Conservationists are increasingly frustrated with the deadlock. Resolutions have failed for years due to resistance from Russia and Chinaalso this year.
“The last almost untouched spots on our planet are in the Southern Ocean. These unique ecosystems are invaluable in the fight against the climate crisis,” said the Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Ozdemir (Greens) of the German Press Agency. For large protected areas it is therefore “five to twelve” – especially to preserve biodiversity.
“The long-standing Russian blockade shows once again that Russia is not interested in constructive cooperation with the international community,” emphasized Özdemir. Moscow as well as Beijing It is not about scientific arguments, but only about the use of resources worthy of protection.
In particular, there has been a struggle for years over three marine protected areas that would cover a total area of almost four million square kilometers – in East Antarctica, on the Antarctic Peninsula and in the species-rich Weddell Sea. 25 of the 27 members are in favor of the project. However, CCAMLR decisions must be unanimous.
Greenpeace ocean expert Franziska Saalmann spoke of a “severe but unfortunately foreseeable defeat for the protection of the oceans”. With its failure, the commission is a full ten years behind on its self-imposed goal of setting up a network of protected areas. Decisions in protective bodies should not be made according to the principle of unanimity, she demanded.
Shortly before the start of the conference, the German Bundestag unanimously voted in favor of a marine protection area in the Weddell Sea. The protected area would be the largest marine protected area in the world. The Weddell Sea is the habitat and retreat for many species that have specialized in the harsh conditions in the icy habitat – such as hake, krill and emperor penguins. Since 2016, its designation as a protected area has been applied for regularly.
In protecting the Antarctic it’s about nothing less than preserving our livelihoods, said Daniel Schneider, member of the SPD parliamentary group. “China and Russia will also have to be convinced of this – hopefully in the near future.”
At the meeting, no agreement was reached on the protection of the world’s largest known breeding area for ice fish with around 60 million nests, Asoc continued. The breeding area was discovered earlier this year by scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, which conducts polar research in Germany coordinated.
Another important topic of the CCAMLR meeting was the krill fishery. There was no breakthrough here either. Although the effects of krill fishing are now to be scientifically examined, stricter fishing measures have not been decided. Oil and fish feed are made from the tiny crustaceans. But krill is also extremely important for the ecosystem and livelihood of whales, penguins and seals, for example. “Antarctic krill contributes to the global carbon cycle by storing millions of tons of carbon annually and is a key species in the Antarctic marine food web,” said WWF researcher Emily Grilly.
One of the few pieces of good news is that CCAMLR has added eight new areas to the list of “Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems” (VME), the Asoc statement said. This means that fishing with gears that touch the seabed is not allowed in these areas. VME’s are seabed areas with species that are particularly vulnerable to disturbance, such as corals and sponges. Seven of the eight VMEs were only discovered earlier this year during a Greenpeace expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula.
The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established in 1980. The commission consists of 26 states and the EU.