Questions and Answers, East Antarctic Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (EARSMPA)

Questions and Answers, East Antarctic Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (EARSMPA)

Questions and Answers, East Antarctic Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (EARSMPA)


What is CCAMLR? The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established in 1982 with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life.

This was in response to increasing commercial interest in Antarctic krill resources, a keystone component of the Antarctic ecosystem. It is important to note that the convention explicitly allows for harvesting as long as such harvesting is based on the best available scientific information and carried out in a sustainable manner ("rational use").

CCAMLR is an international body with 25 Members and 11 countries that have acceded to the Convention. The European Union (EU) is a full member of this organisation being represented by the European Commission. The following EU Member States are also members of CCAMLR: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

What is to be discussed in Bremerhaven?

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Resources (CCAMLR) is holding its Second Special Meeting 15-16 July 2013 in Bremerhaven, Germany, in order to discuss the creation of two Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the Antarctic. The EU, Australia and France (on behalf of its overseas territories) will put forward a proposal for the creation of an East Antarctic Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (EARSMPA). The United States and New Zealand will present a proposal for the establishment MPA in the Ross Sea. In line with its international commitments the EU supports the establishment of a representative network of MPAs in CCAMLR.

What is a Marine Protected Area (MPA)?

An MPA is a designated area where specific rules are adopted which aim at managing human activities such as research or fishing within the MPA in order to ensure protection and conservation of marine biodiversity in that area. Thus, different rules apply in different MPAs depending in the management objectives chosen.

CCAMLR is considered a forerunner among Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) with a proactive attitude regarding conservation. In 2009, on the basis of an EU proposal, the first MPA established within CCAMLR convention area was the South Orkney Island Southern Shelf MP, where only scientific fishing is authorised.

Why are MPAs important?

Nature conservation and fisheries management are the main reasons why MPAs are established. 

The use of MPAs for conservation has increased along with the growing global recognition of the need to safeguard the marine environment. According to FAO, protected areas have a long history and predate the MPA concept by several decades. Measures such as area and time restrictions for protection of a component of a fish stock or community, e.g. adult spawning grounds or juvenile nursery areas, are considered types of MPA. With the increasing trend of applying an ecosystem based approach to fisheries, MPAs with broader combined objectives for ecosystem management are likely to become more common.

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Governments made a commitment at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 to create a representative network of MPAs by 2012. In 2010, the Conference of the Parties of the Convention of Biodiversity adopted its Aichi Targets concerning biodiversity which included the establishment of MPAs. The aim was to ensure that by 2020, 10% of coastal and marine areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services would be conserved through effectively and equitably managed marine protected areas. In 2012, the global community confirmed this goal at Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

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Why a CCAMLR Special Meeting just to discuss MPAs?

During last year's annual meeting (October 2012, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia) CCAMLR members failed to find agreement on the MPA proposals.  Given the importance and the international commitment made, it was decided to convene a CCAMLR special meeting on 15 and 16 July 2013 (Second Special Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) in Bremerhaven, Germany, to discuss the Ross Sea and East Antarctica MPAs proposals.

Proposal for an East Antarctic Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (EARSMPA). Who are the proponents?

Together with Australia and France (on behalf of its Overseas territories), the EU will present at the Special Meeting a proposal for the creation of a representative system of MPAs in East Antarctica (EARSMPA). The proposal was initially developed in 2010 using extensive scientific evidence. In 2011 it was presented to CCAMLR Scientific Committee which endorsed it and established that it contained the best science evidence available (CCAMLR, Report of the XXX meeting of the Scientific Committee, Hobart, Australia, 24-28 October 2011, page 43, paragraph 5.63) . Finally, the proposal was submitted for adoption to the 2012 CCAMLR Annual Meeting, where non consensus was found. However, its importance was recognised when CCAMLR Members agreed to hold a Special Meeting in Germany in July 2013 to discuss it.

What is special about this proposal?

The objective is to declare seven conservation zones in Eastern Antarctica in order to establish a system which is representative for all biogeographic areas based on the best scientific evidence available. The selected areas are home to a distinctive water flora and fauna. A wide range of sea marine mammals, penguins and other seabirds find here important feeding grounds. Other areas serve as nursery grounds of Antarctic krill, Antarctic toothfish and Antarctic silverfish. The proposed MPAs have an important role to play in research in order to better understand the effects of fishing outside the MPAs as well as for climate change related research. The total surface of the proposed MPAs is approximately 1.6 million square kilometres or slightly less than half the surface of the EU 28 an amounting to a very limited percentage of the vast Antarctic area.

The revised proposal integrates comments received during last year's discussions and during the outreach that the proponents undertook during the preparation for the up-coming special meeting to engage other CCAMLR Members in a discussion. It is noteworthy that the proposal has received wide support from NGOs such as PEW and the Antarctic Oceans Alliance.

How the areas have been selected?

The principles that guided the designation of the Eastern Antarctica MPAs are comprehensiveness, adequacy, and representativeness. Comprehensiveness implies that a MPA needs to be big enough to encompass all types of ecosystems. Adequacy is about the size and the location of an MPA: An area can be considered adequate for the designation as MPA if the area can sustain its biodiversity and adapt to climate change impacts. The principle of representativeness means that the whole biodiversity of the area needs to be represented and conserved within the system of MPAs.

What are the Scientific Reference Areas?

Three out of 7 designated 7 MPAs (D’ Urville Sea-Mertz, Drygalski and MacRobertson MPAs) provide important scientific reference areas, where natural variability and long term changes in Antarctic marine living resources and ecosystems can be studied, a fundamental step for achieving sustainable fisheries. These zones serve for long-term monitoring of marine mammals and seabirds and the formation of Antarctic bottom water. The areas are also important for research related to climate change impacts on Southern Ocean ecosystems.

These areas are important summer foraging grounds of marine mammals, Adélie and Emperor penguins, and other seabirds during breeding periods. Also, the size will facilitate the monitoring of large scale ecosystem processes.

Are there specific objectives for each MPA?

In addition to the general objectives, the proposal provides for specific objectives for each of the selected areas linked to the characteristics and particularities of the different zones. The Gunnerus MPA was selected for its unique continental ridge and seamount features and its wide ranging biodiversity related to shelf, canyon and slope seafloor ecosystems. In the Enderby MPA it is the distinct seafloor with the only representation of unique Antarctic molluscs (snails and clams) that make this zone worth protecting. The MacRobertson MPA was designated due to the presence of food webs: The area is a foraging ground for sea mammals, Adélie and Emperor penguins. This area also encompasses the foraging ground of the local Emperor penguin colonies.  The Prydz MPA is an important nusery ground for Antarctic krill and toothfish. The Drygalski MPA is of particular importance due to its diverse sea floor environment. The area covers the food web adjacent to the ice shelves and serves as foraging grounds for sea mammals, Adélie and Emperor penguins and other seabirds.

In the Wilkes MPA it is also a unique seafloor which could serve as reference area for evaluating the effects of bottom fishing in adjacent areas. The D’ Urville Sea-Mertz MPA is an important area for research related to climate change:  Antarctic Bottom Water is being formed here, which drives global ocean circulation and traps greenhouse gasses. Directly linked to this, its seafloor features a diverse set of habitats on the shelf and slope. It is a nursery area for Antarctic silverfish and foraging ground for marine mammals and birds, such as Adélie and Emperor penguins. This area is a registered CCAMLR vulnerable marine ecosystem.

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What activities are allowed?

The MPAs are governed by the principle of ‘multiple use’: activities that do not represent a threat to the values of conservation and research of the MPAs can be approved by the CCAMLR Commission. This means that the MPAs are not established as ‘no take’ reserves. When reviewing proposed activities, CCAMLR has to take full account of the recommendations and advice of the Scientific Committee.

Can we be optimists?

The wealth and resources of the oceans need protection. The EU is committed to the protection of the oceans, domestically and internationally and supports the establishment of MPAs in general and in particular in the convention area of CCAMLR in the Southern Ocean.

For more than 30 years CCAMLR has been a leading force in marine conservation. The EU is convinced that CCAMLR can show yet again its leadership and look forward to a successful outcome of the Second Special Meeting of CCAMLR in Bremerhaven.