For the first time in 2016, the European Union (EU) proposed a MPA in the Weddell Sea, the Atlantic sector of the Antarctic Ocean, under the CCAMLR. The scientific data for this proposal was compiled and evaluated by experts at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). A revised proposal was most recently submitted to the CCAMLR Commission in October 2020. Alongside the EU and its member states, Norway, Uruguay and Australia were new co-proponents. Unfortunately, last year’s CCAMLR deliberations – held for the first time online due to the COVID-19 pandemic – were again unsuccessful. The negotiations concerning the Weddell Sea MPA will resume this year (2021), with the aim and in the hope of securing the necessary approval of all 26 CCAMLR members.
The United Nations declared the goal that by 2020, ten percent of the world’s oceans should be placed under protection. There is even an international push for extending this protection to 30 percent by 2030. However, to date only barely eight percent has been achieved (UNEP-WCMC & IUCN database: https://www.protectedplanet.net/marine). A network of Marine Protected Areas throughout the Southern Ocean would make a significant contribution toward attaining the above goals. In this way, protected regions could be designated in order to provide refuge for cold-adapted marine organisms that, as a result of global warming and the associated reduced sea-ice cover, could be exposed to greater pressure from the fishing industry in future. Since the Alfred Wegener Institute was founded in 1980, its scientists have undertaken regular research expeditions in the Weddell Sea. In 2012, CCAMLR invited Germany to prepare a proposal for a Marine Protected Area in the Weddell Sea. In response, on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture, AWI researchers collated and analysed extensive scientific data. On this basis, the European Union (EU) submitted its first proposal for a Marine Protected Area to the CCAMLR.
Whether or not the proposal will receive the requisite unanimous support of all 26 CCAMLR members sometime in the next few years is first and foremost a question of political will. For instance, it took almost ten years until, in 2016, the establishment of a major CCAMLR protected area in the Ross Sea was approved.