• India has extended its support for protecting the Antarctic environment and co-sponsoring a proposal of the European Union for designating East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
• Earth Sciences Minister Jitendra Singh addressed a high-level ministerial meeting held virtually, which saw participation from different countries of the European Union. The minister said the two proposed MPAs are essential to regulate illegal unreported and unregulated fishing.
• The high-level ministerial meeting was hosted virtually by Virginijus Sinkevicius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, EU. It was attended by ministers, ambassadors and country commissioners from nearly 18 countries.
• Jitendra Singh urged the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) member countries to ensure that India remains associated with the formulation, adaptation and implementation mechanisms of these MPAs in future.
• The meeting aimed to increase the number of co-sponsors of the MPA proposals and reflected on a joint strategy and future actions for their swift adoption by CCAMLR.
What is CCAMLR?
• CCAMLR is an international treaty to manage Antarctic fisheries to preserve species diversity and stability of the entire Antarctic marine ecosystem. It came into force in April 1982.
• The headquarters and Secretariat of CCAMLR are based in Hobart, Tasmania.
• CCAMLR is composed of 26 Members and 10 Acceding States (States that are Party to the Convention but not Members of the Commission). An Acceding State may become a Member if it is engaged in research or harvesting activities on Antarctic marine living resources.
• Members of CCAMLR are: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America and Uruguay.
• Acceding States are: Bulgaria, Canada, Cook Islands, Finland, Greece, Mauritius, Pakistan, Panama, Peru and Vanuatu.
• India has been a permanent member of CCAMLR since 1986.
• Work pertaining to CCAMLR is coordinated in India by the ministry of earth sciences through its attached office, the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE) in Kochi, Kerala.
Formation of CCAMLR
• The marine life of the Southern Ocean has been harvested since 1790, when sealers first hunted fur seals for their pelts.
• By 1825, some populations of fur seals were close to extinction, and sealers began hunting elephant seals and some species of penguins for oil.
• Whaling in the Southern Ocean began in 1904, with seven species of whales living there extensively exploited.
• Large-scale fishing for finfish began in the late 1960s, targeting species such as mackerel icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari), marbled rockcod (Notothenia rossii) and Patagonian rockcod (Patagonotothen guntheri).
• By late 1970s, some species had been overfished in some areas. Krill fishing started in the mid-1970s and by 1980 more than 400,000 tonnes were being taken annually. Krill is a keystone species in the Antarctic ecosystem, as seabirds, seals and whales depend on it for food.
• In 1978, concern over increased fishing and its effect on the wider ecosystem led the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties to convene a conference on the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. The conference agreed to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, signed in Canberra, Australia, on May 20, 1980.
• The Convention came into force on April 7, 1982. It provides the foundation for marine living resource conservation in the Southern Ocean while recognising the prime responsibilities of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties for the protection and preservation of the Antarctic environment.
• The Convention applies to all marine living resources within the Antarctic marine ecosystem.
Marine Protected Areas
• A Marine Protected Area (MPA) provides protection for all or part of its natural resources. Certain activities within an MPA are limited or prohibited to meet specific conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring, or fisheries management objectives.
• CCAMLR is developing MPAs that are representative of the marine ecosystems in the Convention Area.
• CCAMLR has approved a general framework for establishing such areas. MPAs may include restricted, prohibited or managed activities and each established MPA has management, and research and monitoring plans.
• CCAMLR members have developed proposals for MPAs for various regions of the Southern Ocean.
• CCAMLR’s scientific committee examines proposals. After CCAMLR members agree upon them, elaborate conservation measures are set out by the commission.
• The first CCAMLR MPA was the South Orkney Islands southern shelf.
• The second was the Ross Sea region MPA. The Ross Sea region MPA is currently the largest high seas MPA in the world.
• The proposal to designate East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as MPAs was first put forth to the commission in 2020, but a consensus could not be reached at that time.
• Since then, substantial progress has been made with Australia, Norway, Uruguay and the United Kingdom agreeing to co-sponsor the proposal.
India’s support to MPA proposal
• India would join these countries in co-sponsoring the MPA proposals.
• This is the first time India is considering co-sponsoring an MPA proposal at CCAMLR and getting aligned with countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Korea, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA, which are also proactively considering supporting the MPA proposals.
• India’s decision to consider extending support and co-sponsoring the MPA proposals is driven by conservation and sustainable utilisation principles and adhering to the global cooperation frameworks such as Sustainable Development Goals, UN Decade of Oceans, Convention on Biodiversity, etc, to which India is a signatory.