PROTECTING THE ANTARCTIC ENVIRONMENT

  • India has extended its support for protecting the Antarctic environment and for co-sponsoring the proposal of the European Union for designating East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
  • The Southern Ocean, also called Antarctic Ocean, is a body of salt water covering approximately one-sixteenth of Earth’s total ocean area.

Important points:

  • In general terms, a Marine Protected Area (MPA) is a marine area that provides protection for all or part of the natural resources it contains.
  • Within an MPA, certain activities are limited, or entirely prohibited, to meet specific conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring or fisheries management objectives.
  • MPAs do not necessarily exclude fishing, research or other human activities; in fact, many MPAs are multi-purpose areas.
  • The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has agreed a framework that describes the objectives and requirements for establishing MPAs.
  • Currently, only 5% of the Southern Ocean is protected. MPAs were established in the South Orkney Islands in 2009 and the Ross Sea region in 2016.
  • Another three proposals for MPAs are being considered for East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea, and the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • MPA proposals are driven by conservation and sustainable utilization principles and adhering to the global cooperation frameworks (such as Sustainable Development Goals, UN Decade of Oceans, Convention on Biodiversity, etc.)
  • India is a signatory to these conventions or agreements.
  • India urged the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) member countries to ensure that India remains associated with the formulation, adaptation and implementation mechanisms of these MPAs in future.

Need:

The health of the Southern Ocean is driven by changes to the ocean itself – such as:

  1. Ocean Acidification
  2. Changes in sea-ice concentration
  3. Events triggered by climate change such as heat waves and extreme weather.
  4. These changes affect the marine ecosystem and species of the Antarctic region.
  5. Further, in response to these impacts, the threat of new and invasive species in the Southern Ocean is growing and endemic marine species like penguins are experiencing a historic die-off.
  6. Apart from this there is a rapid increase in melting of glaciers in Antarctica . For example, Thwaites Glacier
  7. Studies show that MPAs can help vulnerable ecosystems build resilience to climate change by eliminating additional stresses such as fishing.

SOURCE: THE HINDU,THE ECONOMIC TIMES,MINT

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