Marine Protection at the Bottom of the World: The Challenge of Antarctic High Seas

Friday, 13 February 2015: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Room 210G (San Jose Convention Center)
Cassandra M. Brooks,Stanford University, Stanford, CA
The word “Antarctica” rightly conjures images of pristine stretches of land and sea, but the Antarctic also represents perhaps the most poignant example of peaceful international diplomacy and scientific collaboration. The Commission responsible for managing the Southern Ocean living resources, CCAMLR, has been lauded as a leader in high seas conservation and science-based management. Exemplary of this leadership, CCAMLR committed to designating a representative network of Southern Ocean marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2012, a deadline agreed to at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. However, after adopting the world’s first high seas MPA in 2009, progress towards this goal has stalled, despite extensive MPA proposals for the East Antarctic and the Ross Sea. CCAMLR’s difficulty in adopting these MPAs has drawn international attention and criticism, particularly around the Ross Sea, a region described by many scientists and conservationists to be the last intact marine ecosystem left on Earth. With 2012 come and gone, the international target for a network of global MPAs has been extended to 2020 buying CCAMLR extended time to meet its goal. My talk will explore my research on the barriers and facilitators to the CCAMLR MPA process, including economics and geopolitics. The Antarctic harbors some of the last pockets of unexploited marine living resources, including krill and lucrative toothfish (sold on the market as “Chilean sea bass”). The MPAs on the table would displace some fishing and would limit potential future access to Southern Ocean resources. Adding to the political complexity, member States’ positions for or against MPAs may not be driven by conservation incentives, but instead by national policy and an attempt to reinforce or refute historic sovereignty claims that were “frozen” under the signing of the Antarctic Treaty. While CCAMLR Members have collectively agreed that MPAs will help conserve the ecological integrity of the Southern Ocean, the great challenge remains for CCAMLR States to find the political will to see them through.