What is CCAMLR, and how can it protect the penguins, seals, whales, and other animals that live in Antarctica? Our whiteboard animation explains.
At the height of the Cold War, countries came together to protect Antarctica as a place of peace and science. Unfortunately, the surrounding waters of the Southern Ocean were not protected.
With no protections in place, fishing for tiny krill—the keystone of the Antarctic food web—increased dramatically. In response, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was created in 1980. Its mandate was simple: to conserve Antarctic marine life.
Despite that mission, promises to create marine reserves and protected areas in Southern Ocean waters have gone unfulfilled, even as climate change and industrial fishing increasingly threaten vulnerable areas such as the Ross Sea.
But it isn’t too late to make good. CCAMLR must act now to create marine reserves and show the world that it is serious about protecting the most pristine and special place on the planet.
Learn more at www.pewtrusts.org/ccamlr
Antarctica—the seventh and southernmost continent in the world—is the coldest, driest, and windiest place on earth.
It and the surrounding waters of the Southern Ocean are home to more than 9,000 species that aren’t found anywhere else on earth, including leopard seals, orcas, 7 species of penguins…and polar bears…
No, not polar bears! That’s the North Pole! Penguins and polar bears have never crossed paths.
Antarctica has been called the world’s last frontier. It is a pristine corner of the planet that leaders have long seen value in preserving.
In fact, at the height of the Cold War, the world’s leading nations signed the Antarctic Treaty, agreeing to protect the continent of Antarctica as a place of “peace and science.”
Penguins and other species were saved! Well, their habitat on land was saved. But what about the waters where they hunted for food? Unfortunately, the entire Southern Ocean was left open to commercial fishing and other exploitation.
This spawned a fishing frenzy for Antarctic krill, a tiny shrimp-like crustacean that is processed into animal feed and omega-3 supplements.
They may not look like much, but krill form the base of the entire Southern Ocean food web. Without them, penguins and other predators are put at risk.
Marine scientists, already worried about the devastating impacts of climate change on Antarctica, raised the alarm when they saw that the krill race was quickly expanding.
World leaders responded in 1980 by creating the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, or CCAMLR. CCAMLR’s mandate is to conserve Antarctic marine life.
Conserve: to keep something safe from being damaged or destroyed; to use something carefully in order to prevent loss or waste..
But while CCAMLR was responding to interest in krill, another fishing frenzy began—this time, for toothfish, a top predator in the Southern Ocean. Diners called it Chilean sea bass and fishermen called it “white gold” because the catch is highly valuable. Unfortunately, illegal fishing quickly wreaked havoc on populations of this important predator.
As demand for krill and toothfish increased, it became clear a new approach was needed.
And in 2009, CCAMLR had a bright idea. It designated the first marine protected area in the South Orkney Islands, keeping those waters free from industrial fishing.
It was a good start, but they knew they needed to do more. So in 2011, CCAMLR committed to establishing a network of large marine protected areas around the Southern Ocean.
It was a big promise that is backed by the best available science. Experts say that we should be designating almost a third of our oceans as highly protected in order to support sustainable, healthy oceans that are resilient to climate change.
It’s been four years since CCAMLR’s promise and we are still waiting for this large network of marine protected areas around the Southern Ocean. Today, climate change and industrial fishing continue to threaten vulnerable areas like the Ross Sea, while less than 2% of the world’s oceans are highly protected!
At a time when 85 percent of the world’s fisheries are in decline, we know we can do a lot better than that.
But is not too late for CCAMLR to make good on their promise and return to their primary mission.
Remember what the second “C” stands for? CCAMLR was created to conserve – conserve the Southern Ocean, its krill, penguins, toothfish and other marine life.
But CCAMLR must act now to create marine reserves and show the world they mean business about protecting the most pristine and special place on the planet.