CCAMLR Fails to Make Progress in Establishing Antarctic MPAs

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Editor's Note: Jeff Ardron is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany.  He attended the July special meeting of CCAMLR in Bremerhaven and filed this report.  The article is published here courtesy of the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (GOBI; www.gobi.org); it will appear in the forthcoming Summer 2013 GOBI newsletter.

CCAMLR is the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and has 25 member States.  Its decision-making is entirely by consensus.

By Jeff Ardron (Special to MPA News)

Back-to-back special meetings of the CCAMLR Scientific Committee and Commission were held 11-16 July in Bremerhaven, Germany, to discuss MPA network proposals for the Antarctic.  However, after intensive negotiations, no meaningful progress was achieved. 

The proposals call for networks of MPAs in the Ross Sea, proposed by New Zealand and the USA; and the Eastern Antarctic, proposed by Australia, France, and the European Union.  The MPA networks are proposed with varying levels of protection in each site, ranging from scientific research to limited commercial fishing.

Russia and Norway were the most outspoken critics, with Russia focusing its criticisms on the Ross Sea proposal, while Norway focused mostly on the Eastern Antarctic proposal.  Most of the distant-water fishing nations present expressed varying levels of concern regarding the number and sizes of the proposed MPAs.

Russia surprised the Commission by arguing that CCAMLR did not have the legal mandate to declare MPAs, and that the establishment of MPAs on the high seas was contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Ukraine also argued that CCAMLR had no right to limit "rational use". 

MPAs have been under discussion in CCAMLR for almost 10 years, and this is the first time its legal competence has been questioned on this matter.  Indeed: 

•  In 2009, CCAMLR established its first MPA, near the South Orkney Islands;

•  In 2010, the Commission endorsed its Scientific Committee's plans to develop a system of MPAs as a matter of priority; and

•  In 2011, CCAMLR adopted through consensus the Conservation Measure 91-04, General framework for the establishment of CCAMLR Marine Protected Areas.

Some delegations suggested that the MPAs should be of fixed duration, the so-called "sunset clause", and China went further, suggesting that consensus might be achieved only if CCAMLR agreed to MPAs of short duration.  IUCN and others pointed out that that long-term protection is intrinsic to the goals of MPAs, as is reflected in international practices.

This was the first-ever special meeting of the Science Committee, and the second-ever meeting of the Commission since its establishment in 1982.  The meetings were called because the two proposals failed to achieve consensus at the regular 2012 Commission meeting.  The proposals will be discussed again at the next regular CCAMLR meeting at the end of October 2013 in Hobart, Australia.

For more information:

Jeff Ardron, IASS, Potsdam, Germany. Email: jeff [dot] ardron [at] iass-potsdam [dot] de

The Ross Sea proposal: www.mfat.govt.nz/ross-sea-mpa/tabs/proposal.php

The East Antarctica proposal: www.antarctica.gov.au/law-and-treaty/ccamlr/marine-protected-areas

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