A campaign to create the world’s biggest marine reserve off Antarctica has been given props from an unexpected quarter.
The Greenpeace campaign to protect the Antarctic Ocean, backed by 1.7 million people globally, has just received unprecedented support from the vast majority of krill fishing companies operating in these waters.
New Zealand, a member of an International Commission which gets to vote on the proposed 1.8 million square km reserve, will play a pivotal role in the decision to create this massive sanctuary in the Weddell Sea.
The new move by krill fishing companies has been announced at a Greenpeace event in Cambridge, UK.
It’s been attended by scientists and Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem, who joined Greenpeace’s expedition to the Antarctic in January 2018.
This announcement will see nearly all krill companies voluntarily stop fishing in huge areas around the Antarctic Peninsula, to protect wildlife.
"The momentum for protection of the Antarctic’s waters and wildlife is snowballing", says Greenpeace NZ spokesperson Phil Vine. "A huge movement of people globally has been joined by scientists, governments, celebrities and now even the companies krill fishing in the Antarctic."
Krill is a small crustacean which is a keystone species in the Antarctic food web, eaten by penguins, seals, whales and other marine life.
The companies have also pledged to support the creation of a network of large-scale marine protected areas in the Antarctic, including areas in which they currently operate.
All members of the Association of Responsible Krill harvesting companies (ARK), they represent 85% of the krill fishing industry in the Antarctic.
"This is a bold and progressive response from these krill fishing companies, and we hope to see the remainder of the krill industry follow suit," says Vine.
"This October, when the proposal is on the table to create an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary in the Weddell Sea, politicians must know that the eyes of the world are upon them."
New Zealand became a leader in the Antarctic two years ago by helping gain the Ross Sea sanctuary through diplomatic efforts.
"It’s time to show leadership again and be on the right side of history, by backing the proposals by Germany to create the largest ocean sanctuary in the world," says Vine.
The final decision will be taken by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) when it convenes in Hobart, Tasmania, in October 2018.