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– Hello, Mr. Campbell! First, I wish to ask you to do a short presentation of Antarctic Ocean Alliance – AOA (for our readers which are not too familiar with your organization). Who is AOA and which are its goals?
Steve Campbell: The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) is a collective of some 30 international environmental organisations including the Pew Charitable Trust, Greenpeace, WWF, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) and Humane Society. We work together to achieve large-scale marine protection for Antarctica’s Southern Ocean. The body that regulates these waters, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), has operated for years in relative obscurity and our focus has been to shine light on the decisions they are making and communicate to the 25 nations that make up CCAMLR that the public wants these unique water protected while they are still intact.
– Please, tell our readers why is so important to preserve integrity of Antarctic Ocean? And how can they to help?
S.C.: The oceans around Antarctica are some of the most pristine in the world – and the last place on Earth still relatively untouched by human activity. This icy ocean environment is home to nearly 10,000 highly adapted species, many of which can be found nowhere else on the planet. Adélie and emperor penguins, Antarctic petrels and minke whales, Ross Sea killer whales, colossal squid and Weddell seals all thrive in this inhospitable climate. While marine ecosystems in other parts of the globe are threatened and devastated by development, pollution, mining, oil drilling, climate change impacts and overfishing, Antarctica’s Southern Ocean remains relatively intact and is worth protecting. Your readers may join our initiative by signing the petition which is on our website (also on your website) and request the competent authorities to come with us.
– I noticed that many environmental activists (from around the world) are addressing to AOA with aid applications that are not necessarily on your “area” of expertise, so to speak. How do you help them? Collaborate with other organizations to protect environment and report them such environmental protection issues?
S.C.: – The Antarctic Ocean Alliance is very specifically focused only on Antarctic marine protection but most of our partner oganisations work on a wide range of issues including the Arctic, establishing marine protected areas (MPAs) in other key ocean habitats and issues such as climate change and overfishing. We’ve been able to make our case strongly to the body that regulates the Southern Ocean specifically because we are very focused. For those who need support with other issues, we generally direct them to one of our partner organisations with a wider brief.
– There have been many speculations about the Russian attitude at the meeting in Bremerhaven. Tell me, please, what is your personal opinion? Why Russia is blocking any attempt to set aside and preserve the Antarctic in its pristine state?
S.C.: In the past, Russia has said that it supports Southern Ocean MPAs and has supported the establishment of the South Orkney’s MPA in 2009 and the decision to establish a process for deciding on further MPAs in 2011. Russia has subsequently spent considerable time arguing against the two specific proposals being discussed this year. They have raised a number of issues that the proponent countries are in negotiations to address, including the size and duration of the designations.
– Do you think that is just a commercial reason, or is something more (like a fear to a precedent, or something regarding geopolitically strategy of Russia)? May be Russia wants something in change? If you remember, in 1961 Russia (well, ex-Soviet Union) was among the first countries that have signed Antarctic Treaty and in 1964 has ratified Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora…
S.C.: Russia has been part of every consensus decision to protect Antarctica since the 1950s including the Antarctic Treaty itself, the Madrid Protocol and the CAMLR Convention. Thus, Russia has a proud record of leadership and protection on Antarctic issues. In this case there are several Russian government agencies involved in the decision and there are likely to be multiple levels of concern. However, it is clear that Russia can support change and we are hopeful that they will come to the table and collaborate with the proponent countries, in good faith.
– We’ve talked a lot here about Russia’s opposition, though there are 5 countries that have made a positive decision impossible. Recall here China, Japan, Ukraine and Norway. For instance, I’m surprised more the opposition of Norway (who knows from its experience what it means the presence in the Arctic area of big fishing companies)…
S.C.: – It’s difficult to know the level of opposition to the Ross Sea and East Antarctic proposals from other nations because they really didn’t get properly negotiated at the CCAMLR meeting in Bremerhaven, Germany. That’s a real pity because we might have found that, despite some opposition, we could have negotiated proposals that both protected key habitats there AND were acceptable to those who have been opposed over time. Because the talks in German stalled so early, we were not able to get to that level of negotiation.
– When will be (and where) the next meeting and how are going formal and informal efforts to succeed even this time a unanimously positive vote to protect Antarctic Marine Sanctuary?
S.C.: – The next meeting of CCAMLR is in Hobart, Tasmania – in Australia in mid-October. The United States and New Zealand have already put forward a new Ross Sea proposal that reduces the areas protected by more than 40%. That’s a real disappointment as we may well have been able to negotiate something much more comprehensive. On the plus side, the US and NZ have not reduced the scale of protection for the slope and shelf which is a critical area. In addition, the East Antarctic proposal put forward by Australia, France and the European Union looks as if it will not see significant protection reductions for October. Our hope is that these two new versions of the proposals can be designated at the next meeting and that we can then focus on other key Southern Ocean habitats for future protection.