Our Far South voyage to highlight pristine ocean under threat

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Published by on February 21, 2012 courtesy of World Wildlife Fund

Our Far South, a voyage to Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic Islands, set sail  on Friday 10 Feb to highlight the global importance of this last great unspoiled wilderness and the urgent need to protect it from growing human-made threats.

WWF-New Zealand’s marine advocate Bob Zuur will be joining scientists and other Antarctic experts for the month long voyage organised by philanthropist Gareth Morgan, seeking to raise New Zealanders’ awareness of the area and inspire people to speak out to protect this vital marine ecosystem.

Bob Zuur said: “Antarctica’s Southern Ocean is famed for its majestic isolation and magnificent wildlife including Emperor penguins, Albatross, Ross Sea Killer whales and colossal squid. It is also of global importance to humanity.

photo courtesy WWF New Zealand

“Antarcticais a critical laboratory for the study of climate change, and in a rapidly warming world it is vital we paid heed to the story it tells.”

The Southern Ocean’s Ross Sea, which lies about 3500 km from New Zealand at the edge of the Antarctic continent, is renowned by scientists as one of the most significant remaining large marine ecosystems with its top predators still intact.

WWF will be using the voyage to highlight the growing threats facing this important polar region, which include overfishing, tourism, shipping and climate change. Mining and oil exploration also pose potential future threats to the region.

“This almost pristine marine environment will not stay this way for long unless there is a coordinated international effort to protect it. Current measures are not enough to stem the tide of human activities that threaten this great southern wilderness,” said WWF’s Marine Programme Manager Rebecca Bird.

“By creating a network of Southern Ocean marine protected areas we can help fish stocks and other species – from sea bed crabs through krill to giant whales – recover. TheRossSeashelf, slope and wider region should be designated a marine reserve, and we urge the New Zealand Government to play a central role in international negotiations aroundAntarcticalater this year.”

The New Zealand Government is a signatory to the Commission to the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) which will meet inHobartin October. WWF will be advocating for a strong international commitment to protecting most, if not all, of the Ross Sea.

Bob Zuur on the Auckland Islands, courtesy WWF New Zealand

Notes

The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR, www.ccamlr.org) came into force in 1982, as part of the Antarctic Treaty System. It was established mainly in response to concerns that an increase in krill catches in the Southern Ocean could have a serious effect on populations of krill and other animals such as birds, seals and fish. The aim of the Convention is to conserve marine life of the Southern Ocean.

Organisations represented on the voyage include: Antarctica New Zealand, NIWA, VUW Antarctic Research Centre, GNS Science,UniversityofOtago, Te Papa,Sanford, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Conservation, and the Island Bay Marine Education Centre.

Follow the Our Far South project online at www.ourfarsouth.org.

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