Australia is hopeful a revised proposal for a representative Marine Protected Area off East Antarctica will be supported at the annual Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting beginning in Hobart today.

The joint Australia, France and European Union Marine Protected Area (MPA) proposal was initially put forward in 2011, covering some 1.9 million square kilometres over seven separate areas.

The current proposal covers one million square kilometres over four separate areas.

The leader of the Australian delegation to CCAMLR and Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Dr Tony Fleming, said he hopes the adjustments will mean there is consensus about the proposal.

“CCAMLR has a great track record in finding solutions that balance the interests of its members and protect the Antarctic environment, and we are looking forward to working with other nations to reach a good outcome on marine protected areas at this year’s meeting” Dr Fleming said.

“The reduction in the scale of the East Antarctic proposal reflects concerns from some nations that the area included was too large,” Dr Fleming said.

“However we are confident the new proposal will adequately protect representative areas of biodiversity in the region, including areas that are vulnerable to disturbance and which play an important ecological role, such as toothfish and krill nursery areas, and foraging habitat for marine mammals and penguins.”

The revised proposal is also more explicit about the multiple-use nature of the MPAs.

“Such an approach allows for fishing and research activities to be conducted within the MPAs so long as the conservation values of the areas are protected.”

Another important alteration to the proposal are boundary adjustments to more closely align the MPAs with Southern Ocean ecological boundaries and processes.

“The northern boundaries of the four MPAs now correspond with the Southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current Front and the boundaries of the proposed Gunnerus MPA more closely align with the continental ridge.”

Three out of the four areas are proposed as scientific reference areas, recognising that a multitude of processes have impacts on the marine environment.

The four MPAs that make up the revised proposal are Gunnerus, MacRobertson, D’Urville Sea-Mertz and Drygalski.

Australia also continues to support the New Zealand and United States proposal for a Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established in 1982 under the Convention of the same name. The sole objective of the Convention is the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources, where the definition of conservation includes rational use of resources. CCAMLR is the international decision-making body for the Southern Ocean.