Will Norway Protect the Antarctic Ocean?

Will Norway Protect the Antarctic Ocean?

Original article in Aftenposten (Norwegian)

Next week, Norway joins 23 countries and the EU in a vote that should see the creation of the world’s largest marine reserve, and doubling of the protection of Earth’s oceans, and the protection of large areas of the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica, home to penguins, seals, sea birds, orcas and unique species of fish.
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) will hold a special meeting in Bremerhaven, Germany on July 15th and 16th to consider just two things: proposals to designate large Marine Protected Areas in the Ross Sea and along East Antarctica’s coast. Norway will chair the meeting, but is sending no senior officials; Else Berit Eikeland, who recently took over delegation leadership from Karsten Klepsvik, will apparently not attend. And Norway’s position on whether it will support the consensus required to successfully establish the reserves is currently unclear.
A positive decision in Bremerhaven would turn 1.6 million km2 of the pristine Ross Sea and 1.9 million km2 of East Antarctica’s waters into marine protected areas, closed to commercial fishing and other industries. UN countries are committed to protecting 10 percent of the world's oceans by 2020, yet we have achieved just 1%.  The Bremerhaven vote is the fastest route to 10 percent.
Southern Ocean currents sustain three-quarters of Earth’s ocean life; Antarctica’s estimated 10,000 marine species have largely escaped the impacts of pollution and overfishing. However, Ross Sea toothfish populations are declining. Toothfish is an apex predator, reproducing late in its 50-year life, growing up to 2m, and warming its blood using natural antifreeze. Under current rules, fishing could reduce Ross Sea toothfish populations by 50 percent in the next 35 years. Orca populations, which eat toothfish, are also now in decline.
Now, scientists, conservationists, governments and over 1 million people around the world are calling for CCAMLR to protect the Southern Ocean. 
But Russia and Ukraine do not yet support the creation of the reserves; Norway, renowned as an environmental champion, has been largely silent. More problematically, Norway’s delegation has endorsed the inclusion of a so-called “sunset clause” that sets an expiration date for the reserves.
There should be no “sunset clause” - protection of the Ross Sea and East Antarctic waters must be permanent.
Norway has a rich Antarctic history, from Amundsen to the 1991 signing of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. Along with its reputation for peacemaking and cooperation, Norway’s highly advanced fisheries management protects more than 1 million square kilometres of domestic waters from bottom trawling. 
On July 15th and 16th, we hope that Norway shows strong Antarctic and oceans leadership by voicing its support for the Ross Sea and East Antarctic marine protected areas. Norway has a chance to contribute to the protection of an incredible wealth of species, creation of the world’s largest marine reserve, and leave a legacy that the Norwegian people can be proud of for generations to come. 
When it comes to preserving pristine ecosystems, there is no second chance.

James N. Barnes, Executive Director, Antarctic & Southern Ocean Coalition