AOA reports on Weddell region protection

The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) has released a new report to contribute towards protection of the Weddell Sea Region, located south of the Atlantic Ocean.

Antarctic Ocean Legacy: Towards Protection of the Weddell Sea Region supports ongoing scientific and policy work – currently led by Germany and Russia – and is part of the AOA’s proposal to designate marine protected areas (MPAs) and marine reserves across 19 regions around Antarctica.

The Weddell Sea region is renowned for having one of the most intact ecosystems and for being a major engine of global ocean circulation.

“Large, fully protected marine reserves are essential to ensure that the incredible biodiversity of the Weddell Sea remains intact,” said Andrea Kavanagh, who directs Antarctic marine reserve work for The Pew Charitable Trusts.

By providing protection for the areas highlighted in the new report, AOA says the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) would effectively preserve areas that collectively represent a wide range of species, habitats and ecosystems in the Weddell Sea region.

“Protecting the Weddell Sea in a network of large-scale marine reserves will help krill populations and higher predators like whales, seals and Emperor penguins to continue thriving. It will also help ensure that the region remains resilient in the face of ocean acidification, climate change and increased fishing interests,” added Bob Zuur, manager of WWF’s Antarctic and Southern Ocean Initiative.

In addition, the report looks at the effects of climate change on the region and ocean acidification and highlights examples of changes which are already occurring, including a sharp contract between the western and eastern sectors.

The western sector next to the West Antarctic Peninsula, considered as one of the fastest warming areas on the planet, is experiencing both warming conditions and decreasing sea ice. The eastern sector however, is experiencing growing sea ice, contributing significantly to the general increase in Southern Ocean sea ice extent.

“Creating new MPAs in important ecosystems such as the Weddell Sea is part of the critical pathway forward needed to sustain a resilient Southern Ocean, providing Antarctica with much needed support in the face of climate change predictions,” concluded Mark Epstein, executive director, Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC).

The AOA is now urging States party to the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to designate MPAs in East Antarctica and the Ross Sea in 2014 and for Russia and Germany to submit a strong proposal for MPAs in the Weddell Sea for consideration in 2015.

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