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The Antarctic Sanctuary

Greenpeace launches campaign to create ‘largest protected area on Earth’, as Antarctic nations fall short on marine protection
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Emperor penguins in the Antarctic

Greenpeace has launched a global campaign for an Antarctic Sanctuary – covering 1.8 million square kilometres of ocean – to protect whales, penguins and other wildlife.

Following a failure to agree strong marine protection in the East Antarctic, Greenpeace has called for governments to show ‘greater vision and ambition’ in the coming year and create the largest protected area on Earth: an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary.

Making history

Almost half our planet is made up of waters outside national borders, and there’s an urgent global need for more large ocean sanctuaries. Frida Bengtsson, head of Greenpeace’s Antarctic Campaign, said governments now need to show ‘greater vision and ambition’ to protect what belongs to us all.

The Antarctic Sanctuary, which would be five times the size of Germany, would sit in the Weddell Sea next to the Antarctic peninsula.

‘Over the next 12 months we have an opportunity to make history: to create an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary which would be the largest protected area on Earth. Ocean sanctuaries not only protect incredible wildlife like whales and penguins, but they ensure healthy oceans which soak up carbon dioxide and help us to tackle climate change.’

Head of Greenpeace’s Antarctic Campaign

The proposal was submitted by the EU and championed by the German government. It will be considered in October 2018 by the governments responsible for management of the Antarctic marine environment (CCAMLR) which, having failed to agree strong marine protection in the East Antarctic, have just concluded this year’s proceedings.

‘From great blue whales to vast colonies of Emperor and Adélie penguins, Antarctic wildlife is already under acute pressure from climate change and now industrial fishing vessels are vacuuming up the tiny shrimp-like krill which Antarctic life relies upon. The fishing industry simply can’t be allowed to expand their operations and steal food from threatened penguins and whales. We now have a unique opportunity to make sure that doesn’t happen.’

Head of Greenpeace’s Antarctic Campaign

Alex Rogers, Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Oxford, added that more than 30% of our oceans must be safeguarded if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change and protect biodiversity. He said the Antarctic would be a ‘fantastic place to start’.

‘Threats to the Antarctic are increasing, such as climate change and pollution, including from plastics and fishing. Creating large marine reserves can allow these ecosystems to remain in a fully diverse and functional state.’

Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Oxford

The importance of Antarctic ecosystems in sequestering carbon is only now being realised. There is a narrow window of time for governments to work together to protect the oceans so the time for action is now.

Click here to read the Greenpeace proposal that has been submitted by the EU and backed by the German government.

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