The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has declared its first Marine Protected Area (MPA) at the South Orkney Islands near the Antarctic Peninsula.

The Commission agreed to an MPA covering more than 90,000km2 at its 28th annual meeting in Hobart recently.

The Australian delegation at CCAMLR was led by Australian Antarctic Division Director Lyn Maddock.

Ms Maddock said the declaration of the MPA is a significant moment for the Commission.

“The South Orkney Islands MPA was designed to conserve important foraging areas used by albatrosses, petrels and penguins, and unique oceanographic features,” Ms Maddock said.

“The decision to declare the area an MPA shows CCAMLR can act in protecting important ecosystems in the southern ocean,” she said.

Also at the meeting two measures were adopted to ensure better management of krill populations in the Southern Ocean.

Krill fishers will now be required to distribute their catches more broadly across the area rather than concentrate it in one spot and CCAMLR will increase scientific observation of the fishery.

“This is an important step in managing these fisheries and ensuring fishing activities do not have adverse effects on krill populations or their predators in the long term,” Ms Maddock said.

“Observer coverage in all krill fisheries will hopefully deliver adequate data for assessment of the impacts of krill fisheries on the fragile Antarctic ecosystem.”

Also at the meeting a joint initiative of Australia, UK and South Africa will see African nations trained in methods to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.