Unfinished business: protecting Antarctica with marine reserves

Page - May 12, 2009
The historic 1991 agreement to prohibit all mineral extraction in Antarctica for 50 years set an example for a new relationship with planet Earth.

Agreed after many years of negotiation and campaigning, the moratorium was agreed as the equitable and environmentally safe solution to settling international claims to the oil reserves under the ice, a lesson that would be well applied to the current situation in the Arctic.  Greenpeace played a major role in securing this moratorium and for bringing countries onside in support of the 'World Park Antarctica' campaign.

Emperor Penguin.

Although progressive in many ways, the Antarctic Treaty and its sister body, the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) do not currently provide the protection that the Southern Ocean and its unique marine life need in the face of the existing and emerging threats.

Although all the legal and procedural mechanisms to establish a comprehensive and representative network of marine reserves in the Southern Ocean exist within the Antarctic Treaty System, progress to date has been pitifully slow.

At the 50th meeting of the Antarctic Treaty in Baltimore in April 2009 parties agreed to work in conjunction with CCAMLR to establish a comprehensive and representative network of marine protected areas, but crucially no clear targets or timelines were set. 

Now that both bodies are united to work on identifying and establishing areas, it is vital that they make up for lost time and set at least 40% of the Southern Ocean as fully-protected marine reserves.

Greenpeace ship Esperanza crosses the "Roaring 40s" en route to the Southern Oceans.

What we want

Antarctic Treaty member states must honour their commitment to dedicatethe continent to 'peace and science' and implement their obligations toestablish a comprehensive and representative network of marine reservesin the Southern Ocean.  To be effective this network should be ofsufficient scale, covering at least 40 percent of the Southern Ocean.

Read more about Greenpeace's historic efforts to save the Antarctic