Q&A about the Antarctic campaign

What is this campaign about?
What are ocean sanctuaries?
Why do ocean sanctuaries matter?
Why are you talking about the Antarctic rather than all oceans / the Arctic?
Is it really the largest protected area on Earth? What about Antarctica?
How did the UN Oceans Treaty process come about? Did Greenpeace campaign for it?

What is this campaign about?

This is a global campaign to create the largest protected area on earth: an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary. Covering an area of the Weddell Sea next to the Antarctic Peninsula, it would be larger than the provinces of BC and Alberta combined.

What are ocean sanctuaries?

Ocean sanctuaries (also known as marine reserves) are areas which are protected from direct human impact - things like fishing, oil drilling, deep sea mining and other extractive industries.

Why do ocean sanctuaries matter?

Put simply, they work! Everywhere where our oceans are properly protected we see more animals, bigger animals, more diversity, and spillover benefits outside the sanctuary boundaries. Many marine animals are suffering from the impacts of climate change, pollution and overfishing. Ocean sanctuaries provide relief and resilience for wildlife and ecosystems to recover, but it’s not just about protecting majestic blue whales and penguin colonies. The benefits are global. Recovering fish populations spread around the globe and only now are scientists beginning to fully understand the role that healthy oceans play in soaking up carbon dioxide and helping us to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Sanctuaries encourage vital biodiversity, provide food security for the billions of people that rely on our oceans, and are essential to tackling climate change. Our fate and the fate of our oceans are intimately connected.

For our blog on three big reasons why we need ocean sanctuaries, see here:

Why are you talking about the Antarctic rather than all oceans / the Arctic?

We believe that at least 30% of our oceans should be set aside as ocean sanctuaries, and the Antarctic is the obvious place to start. There is already a proposal on the table for ocean protection for the Weddell Sea next to the Antarctic peninsula, and we need to make sure it is agreed. We can use a victory for the oceans in the Antarctic to build momentum for protection in many other areas of international waters as the UN negotiates an Ocean Treaty. This is about a journey towards protecting half the planet, and it starts in the Antarctic.

Is it really the largest protected area on Earth? What about Antarctica?

It will be!  At 1.8million km² it will beat the previous biggest protected area which was in the Ross Sea, another Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary.  The continent of Antarctica, although under protection from human activity under the Antarctic Treaty, is not a protected area as defined by the IUCN: “A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.”

How did the UN Oceans Treaty process come about? Did Greenpeace campaign for it?

For over a decade, governments discussed conservation and sustainable use of ocean life in areas beyond national jurisdiction within an informal working group at the UN (known as BBNJ - Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction). In January 2015, after much pressure from NGOs including Greenpeace, governments took the historic decision to start negotiating a new legally binding international instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in ABNJ (what we refer as “UN Ocean Agreement”). These initial preparatory negotiations resulted in the final recommendation to move ahead into formal negotiations which will begin in September 2018 and should conclude in 2020. Throughout this period Greenpeace attended UN sessions, and worked with allies in the High Seas Alliance.  As a contribution to the negotiations we even presented our own ten step approach for high seas Ocean Sanctuaries.


The latest updates


For Valentine’s Day: the Antarctic’s most loving animals

Blog entry by Willie Mackenzie | February 13, 2018 1 comment

The biggest hearts in the world are found in the Antarctic Ocean, so why not show them some love this Valentine’s Day? There’s always room for more love in the world – and today seemed like the perfect opportunity to spread a...

Here's how 2018 got off to a good start

Blog entry by Sarah Wilbore | February 2, 2018

We’re one month into 2018, and already we have good news from around the world and here in Canada to share with you. We discovered a new bird species in Indonesia The Rote myzomela (Myzomela irianawidodoae) belongs to the...

Diving to the Antarctic sea floor is a scientist’s dream come true

Blog entry by Dr Susanne Lockhart | January 29, 2018

Most people would be surprised about how many species of cold-water corals and amazing sponges you’d find on the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean. Even as the scientist who has identified three quarters of the registered seafloor...

Do ocean sanctuaries really work?

Blog entry by Greenpeace Canada | January 25, 2018

Our oceans are massive and unlike most places on land, they don’t really have borders. Animals, water (and sadly now plastic) all move freely across the globe. So it begs the question: does creating a protected area really work?   ...

Antarctic’s Top Penguin

Blog entry by Willie Mackenzie | January 20, 2018

Not every penguin is up to the challenge of living in the Antarctic, but those that do are a special sort of awesome. Remember, they don’t have the luxury of being able to fly away again if the weather turns bad. In honour of...

March of the penguins

Blog entry by Akshey Kalra | January 15, 2018

This morning, people around the world are waking up to pictures of penguin sightings across the globe. The penguins have been spotted travelling on trains, arriving at international airports and at iconic landmarks. From Sydney to...

Setting Sail to protect the Antarctic

Blog entry by Will McCallum | January 15, 2018

As I write this the Arctic Sunrise, one of Greenpeace’s ships, is sailing south.  For the next three months its crew will be working alongside a team of campaigners, photographers, film-makers, scientists and journalists from across...

5 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Antarctic

Blog entry by Samantha Wockner | January 8, 2018

In 2017 we launched a campaign to create an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary – the largest protected area on Earth. But why? Well, apart from being home to amazing animals such as penguins, whales and seals. The Antarctic plays an important...

Greenpeace turns 46! Here’s what we have to celebrate

Blog entry by Jesse Firempong | September 15, 2017

That’s right. It’s Greenpeace’s 46th birthday!  We may be another year older, but we’re also stronger and wiser. We’ve come a long way since 1971, when on this day, a small group of courageous people set off to stop nuclear...

Waddle you do to celebrate World Penguin Day?

Blog entry by Willie Mackenzie | April 25, 2014 2 comments

All rights reserved . Credit: Greenpeace 'Give us a kiss, it's World Penguin Day!' It’s World Penguin Day today, April 25 th , and I simply can’t imagine a world that didn’t have penguins in it. So in order to...

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