I’ve made it to Bremerhaven, and after seven years pushing for marine protection in the Ross Sea my journey may soon be over. The next 24 hours are crucial for the Ross Sea – a choice will be made as to whether or not an MPA is created and how comprehensive it will be.
The decision making arm of CCAMLR – the Commission – opened today and I heard New Zealand and the US present their joint Ross Sea proposal to the members of the commission. It was wonderful to hear both countries speak about the importance of the Ross Sea, and the need to protect it – describing it as ecologically significant and the most pristine marine ecosystem on Earth.
After that things started to slide. As told at a lunchtime media briefing by representatives from the commission, Russia and the Ukraine had challenged CCAMLR’s legal right to establish MPAs around Antarctica. There were also concerns expressed by some members in the meetings about the size of MPAs, their duration and management plans.
Seeing the politics unfold in a hot conference room in Germany was surreal. I couldn’t help but think back to those fledgling Emporer penguin chicks I filmed years ago in the Ross Sea. They would now be sitting out in some blizzard huddling together to survive the cold, while 25 people at the opposite end of the world decide the fate of their home – the world’s last great ocean wilderness.
I’m glad I came here and have been able to see CCAMLR operating in full swing. I have a more realistic view of the challenges involved in creating these MPA’s and I hope that New Zealand and the United States hold their ground in the face of some very strong opposition.
What I see playing out at CCAMLR is people expressing concerns about rights to the diminishing resources of the world. People driven by the fear of losing them as opposed to the values of protecting them. It’s a sad indictment of humanity that we can’t gift this unique corner of the world to future generations – I’m learning to let go of those higher expectations, but my head hangs at the loss of one of Earth’s great natural treasures – our last untouched ocean.