#ArcticSunrise #Oceans

Create an Antarctic sanctuary

Almost half our planet is a vast blue wilderness, outside of the boundaries of flags, languages and national divisions. The Antarctic is one such place,…

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As I write this, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, is sailing South. For the next three months, the crew will be working alongside a team of campaigners, photographers, film-makers, scientists and journalists from across the globe to build the case for the world’s largest protected area: an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary.

The Antarctic is home to an abundance of wildlife. Whales, penguins and colossal squid are just a few of the many animals who call it home. And it’s not just important to animals – the health of our oceans sustains our planet, and provides billions of people with their livelihoods. But threats from overfishing, plastic pollution and climate change mean we urgently need a network of sanctuaries across the world to restore our oceans’ health.

And this year, we have the chance to create the world’s largest protected area. Which is why we’re taking to the seas.

Humpback Whale in the Southern Ocean© Greenpeace / Jiri Rezac

A humpback whale shows its fluke while feeding near the Antarctic ice edge in the Southern Ocean. © Greenpeace / Jiri Rezac

From exploring previously unseen parts of the seabed, to documenting the impact of climate change and the fishing industry on penguin colonies, this promises to be a journey like no other. We’ll be bringing the charismatic wildlife of the Antarctic closer to you than ever before and introducing you to the passionate scientists who have devoted their lives to protect it. Because we need you to join them.

Time is ticking to protect the Antarctic

I think it’s fair to say most of us work well to a deadline. Something about having a due date helps focus the mind and gets the creative juices going. Well, we have a new deadline: October 2018.

In just over nine months’ time the Antarctic Ocean Commission meets to discuss whether or not to make history and create the world’s largest protected area. We have until then to convince the members of this Commission to put aside their differences and create a safe haven for emperor penguins, blue whales, colossal squid and all the other Antarctic animals.

Adeli Penguins in the Southern Ocean © Greenpeace / Jiri Rezac

A group of Adeli Penguins are seen here in Antarctic sea ice. © Greenpeace / Jiri Rezac

We now have nine months to show leaders across the world how important it is to protect the ocean at a larger scale than ever before – for the wildlife that calls it home, for the sake of preventing the worst impacts of climate change and for the livelihoods of more than half the people who live on the planet, who depend on the ocean for their food.

The case for protecting our oceans has never been stronger, with new science emerging every day about how healthy oceans are vital for our future.

There are leaders representing 24 countries and the EU meeting to make this decision. So in the coming months we’ll be sending them a message: the journey to protect our blue planet begins in the Antarctic.

Help make history

While there’s only a few of us in the team headed south, you can make it a team of millions. You can help persuade politicians across the globe to work together for the oceans.

Arctic Sunrise and Crew in Chile © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

The crew of Arctic Sunrise in Punta Arenas, Chile, en route to the Antarctic for scientific research into the biodiversity of the Antarctic ocean. © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

As we work with scientists to discover new habitats on the Antarctic seabed, as we bear witness to the fishing boats competing against penguins and whales to find the krill they feed on – it’s your support that’s going to make politicians listen.

As the Arctic Sunrise sets sail today, I’ll be the first to admit it is a little daunting – not just the prospect of three months sailing in one of the wildest parts of the planet, but also the challenge of getting so many governments to agree with each other!

We’re aiming high because we have to. From the smallest creatures on earth to the largest, we need healthy oceans for the future of life on earth. Right now we have the opportunity to protect an area of the Antarctic Ocean that is six times the size of Italy. We need to do everything we can to seize it.

Get started by adding your voice here.

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Will McCallum is an Oceans Campaigner with Greenpeace UK