In October 2011, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) proposed the creation of a
network of marine protected areas (MPAs) and marine reserves in 19 specific areas
in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. This report, Antarctic Ocean Legacy:
Protection for the East Antarctic Coastal Region, outlines a vision for marine
protection in the East Antarctic, one of the key regions previously identified by the
Currently, only approximately 1% of the world’s oceans are protected from human
interference, yet international agreements on marine protection suggest that this
number should be far higher.
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
(CCAMLR), the body that manages the marine living resources of the Southern Ocean
(with the exception of whales and seals), has set a target date of 2012 for
establishing the initial areas in a network of Antarctic MPAs.
One of the key places for which the AOA seeks protection is the East Antarctic coastal
region. This remote area, while vastly understudied, is home to a significant
proportion of the Southern Ocean’s penguins, seals and whales. The East Antarctic
coastal region also contains large seafloor and oceanographic features found
nowhere else on the planet.
The AOA offers this report to assist in designating marine reserves and MPAs in the
East Antarctic coastal region. This is the third in a series of “Antarctic Ocean
Legacy” proposals from the AOA.
This report describes the geography, oceanography and ecology of this area. The
AOA acknowledges the scientists and governments that have studied the region and
welcomes and gives support to the proposal that has been submitted for marine
protection in the East Antarctic by Australia, France and the EU, but is cautious that
constant vigilance and additional marine reserves will be required to ensure that the
conservation values of the proposal are not compromised in the future.
The AOA proposes that in addition to the seven areas referenced by Australia, France
and the EU, four additional areas also be considered for protection in the coming
years. A network MPAs and marine reserves encompassing these additional areas
and those proposed by Australia, France and the EU would span approximately
2,550,000 square kilometres.
Because the East Antarctic coastal region is “data‐poor”, the AOA plan is based on the
application of the precautionary approach, one of the core concepts at the centre of
This proposal includes:
1. A representative sample of biological features at the species, habitat and
ecosystem scale to ensure broad scale protection.
2. Areas of protection large enough to encompass broad foraging areas for whales,
seals, penguins and other seabirds.
3. Protection of many of the region’s polynyas, which are sources of food for many
4. Protection of unique geomorphic features, including the Gunnerus Ridge, Bruce
Rise, a trough mouth fan off Prydz Bay, various seamounts and representative areas
of shelf, slope and abyssal ecoregions.
5. Full protection of Prydz Bay, an area that supports large numbers of seabirds and
mammals as well as likely nursery grounds for krill and toothfish.
6. Protecting areas of scientific importance that may serve as climate reference areas.
Currently only 1% of the world’s oceans are protected from human interference, yet
international agreements on marine protection suggest that this number should be
The designation of a network of large‐scale MPAs and marine reserves in the East
Antarctic coastal region would be an important and inspirational step for marine
protection in the Southern Ocean. CCAMLR Members have an unprecedented
opportunity to establish a network of marine reserves and MPAs an order of
magnitude greater than anything accomplished before. With such a network in place,
key Southern Ocean habitats and wildlife, including those unique to the East
Antarctic coastal region, would be protected from the impacts of human activities.
The AOA submits that with visionary political leadership, CCAMLR can grasp this
opportunity and take meaningful steps to protect critical elements of the world’s
oceans that are essential for the lasting health of the planet.