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Protection Needed for Critical East Antarctic Marine Habitats

18 October 2012

ANTARCTICA - An alliance of 30 global environment organisations have launched a report calling for greater protection for the East Antarctic marine environment, on the eve of an international meeting where the future conservation of this region will be decided.

The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) report Antarctic Ocean Legacy: Protection for the East Antarctic Coastal Region, supports a proposal from Australia, France and the EU for East Antarctic marine protection but also calls for additional important areas to be included such as the Prydz Gyre, the Cosmonaut Polynya, and the East India seamounts.

In just seven days, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), will begin meetings in Hobart, Tasmania to debate several proposals for marine protection, including the East Antarctic coastal region and the Ross Sea. The Ross Sea was the subject of an AOA report in February this year.

"The AOA is calling on CCAMLR Members to support the current East Antarctic coastal region proposal put forward by Australia, France and the EU, but to also consider additional areas in subsequent years that our report shows are critical to ensuring the wildlife in the region gets the protection it needs," said AOA Director Steve Campbell.

"We are calling on CCAMLR Members to support the establishment of the world’s largest network of marine reserves and marine protected areas in the ocean around Antarctica as a legacy for future generations," Mr Campbell said. "Decisive protection for the East Antarctic coastal region and Ross Sea would be a great start to that process."

The remote East Antarctic coastal region is home to a significant number of the Southern Ocean’s penguins, seals and whales. It also contains rare and unusual seafloor and oceanographic features, which support high biodiversity.

"While the AOA supports the conservation gains included in the proposal from Australia, France and the EU, we hope that CCAMLR delegates will consider expanding on the area to be protected to include additional areas that are critical habitats for Adélie penguins, Antarctic toothfish, minke whales and Antarctic krill in the future," said Mr Campbell.

Antarctic marine ecosystems are under increasing pressure. Growing demand for seafood means greater interest in the Southern Ocean’s resources, while climate change is affecting the abundance of important food sources for penguins, whales, seals and birds.

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