Australia has welcomed the establishment of a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Ross Sea region of the Southern Ocean by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and is encouraged by continued support for the proposal to establish the East Antarctica MPA in the future.

The 35th annual meeting of the Commission concluded in Hobart today with all member nations agreeing to support a United States and New Zealand proposal to protect approximately 1.55 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea region.

The MPA will conserve examples of the region’s biodiversity and act as a reference area to monitor the effects of fishing and climate change on Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems.

Australia’s CCAMLR Commissioner, Gillian Slocum, said the Ross Sea MPA is an important step towards achieving strong conservation outcomes.

“We are heartened by the adoption of the Ross Sea MPA and we congratulate all members for taking decisive action towards meeting a 2009 commitment to establish a representative system of MPAs within the CCAMLR area,” Ms Slocum said.

“Although CCAMLR was not able to agree on the East Antarctic MPA this year, support remains solid and we look forward to continuing to work with members to reach agreement on this important proposal,” Ms Slocum said.

Another key priority for Australia at the meeting was ensuring the ongoing sustainability of the krill fishery in the Southern Ocean.

“The Commission agreed that krill catch limits would continue to be set at a level which allows for the needs of predators, such as penguins, flying seabirds and marine mammals, as well as the fishery.

“Additionally all krill fishing vessels will have 100 per cent scientific observer coverage within the next five years,” Ms Slocum said.

Other outcomes achieved this year include:

  • Agreement to a second performance review of CCAMLR.
  • Improvements to the catch documentation scheme to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing to ensure increased transparency and incentives for global participation.
  • Three new listings on the IUU Vessel list.
  • A new model for undertaking collaborative fisheries research in the Southern Ocean.
  • A better management framework for assessing the impact of climate change in the Southern Ocean, such as the effect of ice shelf calving on marine ecosystems.
  • Substantial improvements to the compliance framework to ensure Southern Ocean fisheries are sustainably managed.

CCAMLR was established in 1982, with the sole objective of the Convention being the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources, where the definition of conservation includes the rational use of resources. CCAMLR is the international decision-making body for the Southern Ocean.