Weddell Sea MPA
Negotiations regarding an Antarctic Marine Protected Area
UPDATE from 6 November 2018:
At this year’s annual meeting of the international Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), negotiations continued regarding a proposed Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Weddell Sea. Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute were instrumental in preparing the application for protected status, which was submitted in 2016. Unfortunately, this year’s negotiations were unsuccessful.
“Though the proposal was rejected, that doesn’t mean the initiative is over,” explains the Environmental Policy Speaker for the Alfred Wegener Institute, Stefan Hain. “The proposal will be submitted again next year.” The eight-member German delegation was prepared for the fact that negotiations concerning Marine Protected Areas are difficult and often take years to conclude. “Still, it was frustrating that China and Russia weren’t even willing to start concrete talks.” Accordingly, there was no opportunity for a scientific exchange.
As such, the decision as to whether or not a protected area should be established in the Weddell Sea has been postponed for the time being. Nevertheless, the Commission underscored once again its view that the information prepared by the AWI over the past six years represents the “best research currently available” for the proposal. Precisely this classification is the prerequisite for creating an MPA, and was already awarded by the Commission in 2016. Given that China and Russia had since attempted to overturn this assessment, the Commission expressly reaffirmed its ruling.
The ultimate goal is to establish several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) throughout the Antarctic. In this way, protected status could be attained e.g. for regions that, in the course of global warming and accompanying loss of sea-ice cover, will likely face increased pressure from the fishing industry in the future. Since the founding of the AWI in 1980, its researchers have engaged in research expeditions to the Weddell Sea on a regular basis. “Accordingly, the Commission invited Germany to prepare the application for the Weddell Sea,” explains AWI biologist Prof. Thomas Brey, who, along with his team, accepted the task on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
In 2013 the researchers began gathering and analysing data, and preparing the application, which the European Union submitted to the CCAMLR in 2016. With regard to the time scale involved, he adds, “If you take the Ross Sea as an example, then we most likely have half the journey behind us.” Last year, the CCAMLR established a large MPA in the Ross Sea, after nearly ten years of negotiations.