In 2009, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) committed to establishing a representative system of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean. This commitment aligns to the World Summit on Sustainable Development target to establish a representative system of MPAs by 2012.

In 2011, CCAMLR adopted a framework for establishing MPAs in the form of a conservation measure (Conservation Measure 91–05). The framework includes the requirement that MPAs be based on the best available science, and that they be reviewed regularly, via a customised research and monitoring plan.

There are currently 2 MPAs within the CCAMLR area: one on the South Orkney Islands southern shelf (established in 2009), and the other in the Ross Sea region (established in 2016).

Three proposals currently under negotiation by CCAMLR – which would protect areas of the East Antarctic, Weddell Sea, and Antarctic Peninsula regions – are further integral parts of establishing a representative system of MPAs. Learn more about the proposals for marine protected areas.

At a virtual meeting on 28 April 2021, Ministers and high level officials from 15 CCAMLR Member countries and the European Union issued a Joint Declaration on their commitment to the designation of MPAs in the Southern Ocean as soon as possible. This commitment was reiterated at a follow-up virtual meeting on 29 September 2021.

In 2021, the Carbis Bay G7 Summit Communiqué PDF, G20 Environment Communiqué and G20 Rome Leaders’ Declaration supported the establishment of a representative system of MPAs in the Southern Ocean, including in East Antarctica.