Argument: Antarctica and Southern Ocean should be protected in global commons
“Antarctica and the Southern Ocean: Global Commons, Global Wilderness, Global Heritage.” – “Antarctica is the Earth’s ecological powerhouse – the cold engine driving important global systems and the largest wilderness area left on the planet. The Antarctic continent and surrounding islands are almost 10% of the Earth’s surface, and the Southern Ocean 10% of the Earth’s total marine area. The combined marine and land area south of the Antarctic convergence – “Antarctica” – is thus a huge and vital part of our shared planet. However, on the eve of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, it is clear that this supposedly remote and protected part of our planet is under serious threat. Illegal fishing has the potential to undermine the entire Antarctic marine ecosystem, and growing tourism poses problems for the environment of the ice-free 2% of the Antarctic and its marine ecosystems.
The problems posed by Antarctic tourism and Antarctic fishing have a common root: they are commercial activities seeking to operate in a part of the world where the basic social, political and legal structures able to underpin and regulate such activities are largely absent.
ASOC argues that the sustainability of the Antarctic ecosystem can only be achieved through the long-term conservation of the entire region. Protection of the Antarctic region cannot be secured by the accumulation of post hoc measures, or by industry self-regulation. The failure of such approaches is demonstrated by the unsustainable pattern of Antarctic fishing and tourism over the past decade. The strategic environmental needs of a changing Antarctic context need to be addressed effectively to ensure a sustainable future. More sophisticated assessment tools are required than those presently used, and appropriate strategic processes should be in place to plan for a sustainable future.”