Protecting the Last Ocean: Go Big or Go Home

by John Hocevar

October 24, 2012

A group of Adeli Penguins are seen here in the Antarctic sea ice of the Southern Ocean.

© Greenpeace / Jiri Rezac

A group of Adeli penguins in the Southern Ocean in Antarctica

The largest marine reserve in the world could be created by people in this room next week.

Im in Tasmania for the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Im here not as a representative of Greenpeace, but as a member of the United States delegation. There are fourteen of us on the delegation: two from the State Department, nine from NOAA, one from the National Science Foundation, one from the fishing industry, and yours truly. Whatever hat Im wearing, the conservation community and the US government team have one big shared goal for this meeting: create a large marine reserve to protect the Ross Sea, which scientists have identified as the most pristine shallow sea in the world.

Home to more penguins than both Happy Feet movies combined, along with millions of petrels, hundreds of thousands of seals, and a species of killer whale that is found nowhere else on earth, the Ross Sea is not exactly your average coastal sea. There are also gazillions of krill, enough to feed all those minke whales the Japanese fleet travels all the way to the Ross Sea to kill.

Aside from Japanese whaling, the only extractive industry in the Ross Sea is fishing for toothfish, often marketed as Chilean seabass. Theres enough money involved that winning protections for the Ross Sea is not going to be an easy task. Due to the somewhat arcane rules of CCAMLR, Im not able to tell you anything about how the conversations are going here until the end of the meeting.

A Crabeater seal rests on a piece of Antarctic sea ice in the Southern Ocean.

What is clear, though, is that this one is going to come down to the wire. And more than ever, the people here at this meeting realize that the world is watching. Even countries that are not exactly known as super heroes of ocean conservation are aware that people want and expect action. You can help, by joining Leonardo DiCaprio and I in signing this petition urging CCAMLR to GO BIG and create the worlds largest marine reserve, in the Last Ocean.

Humpback whales feed near the Greenpeace ship Esperanza which is at the Antarctic ice edge in the Southern Ocean.

John Hocevar

By John Hocevar

An accomplished campaigner, explorer, and marine biologist, John has helped win several major victories for marine conservation since becoming the director of Greenpeace's oceans campaign in 2004.

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