Antarctic: MEPs call for rapid solution to protect marine areas

  • Urgent need for an agreement on two Marine Protected Areas in Antarctica 
  • The two areas have a combined size of approximately 3 million km2 
  • EU must continue to play a leading role and bilateral and multilateral efforts must be stepped up 

MEPs want the deadlock in international negotiations on the establishment of two protected Antarctic marine areas to end soon.

Talks on the creation of two so-called Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Antarctica have ground to a halt. In a draft resolution adopted on Thursday, MEPs stress the urgent need for the parties negotiating within the framework of the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to reach an agreement.

Plenary encouraged the EU to continue playing a leading role and to demand the intensification of bilateral and multilateral efforts, in particular with countries that have repeatedly opposed an agreement.

The two proposed MPAs could have a combined size of approximately 3 million km2 and would create one of the largest marine protection areas in history, according to the text.

Living up to EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 targets
The approval of these two MPAs would help the EU achieve its commitments on protecting marine biodiversity. It would also be an important contribution to the global dimension of the EUs Biodiversity Strategy 2030, in which MEPs want a target to legally protect a minimum of 30% of the EU’s sea area by 2030. Additionally, MEPs want the EU to push for global ambition to match or exceed this target.

The resolution recalls that the European Commission promised, in its Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, to use all its diplomatic leverage and outreach capacities to help broker agreements on the designation of MPAs in Antarctica. It also demands the Commission and member states strengthen the network of MPAs globally through enhanced management, better spatial planning, evaluations and enforcement in cooperation with global partners.

Oceans are the world’s largest active carbon sink. However, the alteration of marine and coastal ecosystems and the accelerating loss of marine biodiversity is weakening their resilience, especially in remote and fragile ecosystems such as Antarctica, which is home to an extremely rich and diverse biodiversity.

An agreement on the establishment of the two MPAs within the framework of the CCAMLR could be used as a basis in the global negotiations in the COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference taking place in Kunming, China, in October 2021.

There are already ongoing negotiations in the UN for an agreement to protect marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.