Art and design

Books

Culture

Environment

Fashion

Film

Life and style

Money

Music

Politics

Science

Technology

Travel

Television

US news

World news

World's biggest wildlife reserve planned for Antarctica in global campaign

An emperor penguin colony on the frozen Ross Sea, Cape Washington, Antarctica
An emperor penguin colony on the frozen Ross Sea, Cape Washington, Antarctica. Photograph: Paul Nicklen/Getty Images/National Geographic Creative

A global campaign is being launched to turn a huge tract of the seas around the Antarctic into the world’s biggest sanctuary, protecting wildlife and helping the fight against climate change.

The huge 1.8m sq km reserve – five times the size of Germany – would ban all fishing in a vast area of the Weddell Sea and around the Antarctic Peninsula, safeguarding species including penguins, killer whales, leopard seals and blue whales.

The idea was originally put forward by the EU and is being backed by a new Greenpeace campaign to be launched on Monday. The proposal already has the support of several countries – including the UK – and will go before a conference of the Antarctic nations in October.

Will McCallum, of Greenpeace’s new Protect the Antarctic campaign, said: “The next few years are absolutely essential for the future of our oceans and we are in desperate need for governments to come together and do what is best for these amazing ecosystems.”

He said a decision in 2016 to create a smaller sanctuary around the Ross Sea in the Antarctic proved global cooperation to protect the oceans is possible.

“Now we want to go one better and create the world’s largest protected area. We want to create that momentum that says this is not just possible, it is inevitable if we are to protect the wildlife that call the ocean home and crucially help mitigate the worst effects of climate change.”

The sanctuary would stop industrial-scale krill fishing in the area, which scientists say is decimating key food that many larger animals – from penguins to whales – rely on.

Norway, China, South Korea and Russia are big players in the krill fishing industry and campaigners say the success of the proposal will depend on persuading those countries to back it.

McCallum said: “World leaders shouldn’t allow an ocean wilderness to be exploited by a handful of companies. In the 1980s it took a global movement to protect the Antarctic’s land. Now we need to protect its oceans.”

Greenpeace are setting off on a three-month expedition of the Antarctic this week and say a quarter of a million people around the world are already signed up to support the idea.

24 national governments and the EU are members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources [CCAMLR], which is responsible for the conservation of Antarctic waters. It will decide on the new sanctuary proposal at a conference in Australia in October.

Julian Gutt from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany, which put forward the original proposal, said it would be an important moment in the fight to create a sustainable global ocean system.

“This will bring huge benefits in protecting this amazing ecosystem, in preserving the biodiversity and ecosystem functions of the ocean and in the wider fight against climate change.”

The seas around Antarctica are some of the most important in the world with a huge diversity of species. If successful, campaigners hope the sanctuary will build momentum towards a UN ambition to create a network of marine protected areas covering international waters.

Experts say that, as well as protecting wildlife by allowing ecosystems to recover in and around the Antarctic, the ocean sanctuary would provide global benefits, with recovering fish populations spreading around the world, encouraging vital biodiversity and providing food security for billions of people.

Callum Roberts, professor of marine conservation at the University of York, said the sanctuary would also play a key role in tackling climate change – soaking up huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“The Antarctic is very important in locking away carbon in deep-sea sediments. There is also a very rapid rate of sinking there – it has some of the coldest waters in the world … and this sinking is one of the great pumps of the global ocean system.”

He added that the new sanctuary would be an important step to preserving a sustainable global oceans system.

“The Antarctic is a massively important area and you mess with it at your peril.”

This article titled "World's biggest wildlife reserve planned for Antarctica in global campaign" was written by Matthew Taylor, for The Guardian on Saturday 13 January 2018 08.01am

Environment

Donald Trump's tariffs on panels will cost US solar industry thousands of jobs

Donald Trump’s decision to impose a tariff on imported solar panels will cost the US solar industry… Read more

National Trust to create UK sanctuary for endangered butterfly

A beautiful wooded valley on the Devon coast is to be the focus of a project to save the UK’s most… Read more

Country diary: birds heard but not seen in this glowing glade

The glade filled with sunlight. It settled like physical stuff, a dusting of the inner circle and… Read more

Murky world of 'science' journals a new frontier for climate deniers | Graham Readfearn

There’s a new scientific journal you might not have heard of called the International Journal of… Read more

Remote Amazon tribe hit by mercury crisis, leaked report says

An indigenous people living in one of the remotest parts of the Peruvian Amazon has been struck by… Read more

Gas field earthquakes put Netherlands’ biggest firms on extraction notice

Two hundred of the Netherlands’ biggest companies have been told by their government to stop… Read more

UK opposes strong EU recycling targets despite plastics pledge

The UK government is opposing strong new recycling targets across the EU despite its recent pledge… Read more

Tasmania: new find of extremely rare red handfish doubles population to 80

Divers in Tasmania have discovered a new population of red handfish, doubling the known population… Read more

Specieswatch: greater tussock-sedge – safe haven and playground

As a child living deep in the country, the greater tussock sedge, Carex paniculata, provided me… Read more

Renewed calls for UK to tackle toxic air ahead of high court hearing

The government is coming under renewed pressure to introduce a new Clean Air Act to tackle the UK’s… Read more