Sylvia Earle – Beijing could be the key to unlocking a positive outcome at CCAMLR, writes Sylvia Earle
Source: China Dialogue
Decisions taken this week by just 24 nations and the EU could determine the future of the world’s greatest natural treasure: Antarctica, and more specifically the Southern Ocean which encircles it.
The land, ice and waters of Antarctica are the blue heart of our planet, a global commons that must be protected for the benefit of all humanity and life on Earth. But will the governments meeting at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) – including China – live up to this immense responsibility? That is far from certain.
Three crucial proposals on the table at CCAMLR’s annual meeting in Hobart would create the world’s largest marine protected area (MPA) and preserve over 3 million square kilometres of the Southern Ocean. One is calling for a network of MPAs in East Antarctica, the other for a large protected area in the Weddell Sea and a proposal just submitted to protect waters in the Antarctic Peninsula.
These proposals are the result of years of research and consultations with scientists and Antarctic stakeholders, including the fishing industry, and marine experts insist they are essential for protecting unique wildlife, mitigating climate change impacts, and building globally-significant ecosystem resilience.
The proposals require a unanimous “yes” vote by all 25 CCAMLR members, and geopolitical dynamics at the highest levels are at play. Sadly, scientific recommendations and environmental imperatives do not always align with perceived national interests, and both the East Antarctic and Weddell Sea MPAs have met with resistance.
China and Russia blocked the East Antarctica proposal in 2017 and it is feared this scenario could be repeated this year and potentially extended to the Weddell Sea. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A positive outcome is tantalizingly within our grasp, and China could be the key to unlocking it.