Greenpeace slams Antarctic Ocean Commission for ‘failing its mandate’ to protect Antarctic waters

HOBART, Tasmania, Nov. 2, 2018 – Greenpeace International has slammed the Antarctic Ocean Commission (CCAMLR) for “failing its mandate” following a meeting in Hobart, Tasmania, where governments failed to agree on a vast Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary, backed by 22 of 25 of the Commission’s members and almost 3 million people worldwide. [1]

Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign, said: “This was an historic opportunity to create the largest protected area on Earth in the Antarctic: safeguarding wildlife, tackling climate change and improving the health of our global oceans. Twenty-two delegations came here to negotiate in good faith but, instead, serious scientific proposals for urgent marine protection were derailed by interventions which barely engaged with the science.

Advertisement

“Rather than put forward reasoned opposition on scientific grounds, some delegations, like China and Russia, instead deployed delaying tactics such as wrecking amendments and filibustering, which meant there was barely any time left for real discussion about protecting Antarctic waters. The only glimmer of hope came when the small vulnerable marine ecosystems identified by Greenpeace on our recent expedition were approved for protection.”

Delegations from China, Norway and Russia all played a part in blocking the proposal. Commenting on these from the meeting at Hobart, Greenpeace’s Polar Advisor Dr. Laura Meller said:

On China: “The commitment of China’s leaders to be torchbearers for protecting the environment and pursuing a community of shared future for humankind seems to have bypassed their delegation at the Antarctic Ocean Commission, who singularly failed to act in the good faith expected of these negotiations, instead obstructing all opportunities to cooperate and create the world’s largest marine protected area.”

On Norway: “Despite agreeing that the proposal to create an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary  encompassed the best available science, Norway decided to put forward their own proposal dividing the area in two. In the spirit of reaching consensus we urge Norway to commit to a work plan with a clear timeline as to how their own proposal contributes to the Commission’s mandate to urgently proceed with creating a network of large-scale marine protected areas.”

On Russia: “Under Russia’s chairmanship in 2016, the Antarctic Ocean Commission made global headlines when it agreed to protect the Ross Sea, and yet since then Russia has failed to act in good faith, instead only pursuing niche fishing interests, while preventing the Commission from fulfilling its mandate to create a network of sanctuaries in the Antarctic Ocean.”

Frida Bengtsson continued: “We’re running out of time and scientists are clear that we need to create marine sanctuaries across at least 30% of our oceans by 2030, to protect wildlife, ensure food security for billions and help to tackle climate change. In 2009, the Commission agreed on a mandate to create a network of sanctuaries, but since then their diplomatic efforts seem to be more concerned with expanding fisheries than with conservation. If bodies like the Antarctic Ocean Commission continue to fail in their mandate to conserve the ocean, they’re clearly unfit for purpose and aren’t part of the solution. Instead we must look to the historic negotiations taking place at the UN towards a Global Ocean Treaty.”

In September, governments at the UN began negotiations towards a Global Ocean Treaty which would cover all oceans beyond national borders. The negotiations are the result of a decade-long process and could conclude as early as 2020. This treaty would provide the framework for the creation of a network of ocean sanctuaries across 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, which scientists say is imperative to protect wildlife and help to tackle climate change.

Notes

[1] CCAMLR is comprised of 24 member states plus the EU. 2.7 million people have backed Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign. CCAMLR is a closed meeting and the decision, which requires consensus, was made public following the end of the meeting. Further details from the meeting itself remain closed.

Greenpeace has been campaigning for the creation of a 1.8 million square kilometre Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary (Weddell Sea Marine Protected Area), an EU proposal, which would be five times the size of Germany.

Frida Bengtsson is a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace Nordic.

Laura Meller is a polar advisor at Greenpeace Nordic

Since January 2018, Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign has: