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Antarctic: Marine Protected Areas

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN 166056, tabled on 19 July 2018

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential merits of the creation of the Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary for tackling (a) over-fishing, (b) plastic pollution and (c) climate change.

Answered on

27 July 2018

The UK is a global leader on Antarctic marine protection issues, including within the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). At its next meeting in October, CCAMLR will consider UK co-sponsored proposals for establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the East Antarctic and Weddell Sea. CCAMLR ensures that fish stocks in the Southern Ocean are sustainably managed, as well as having committed to the development of a network of MPAs. There is currently no commercial fishing activity in the Weddell Sea; only small-scale, fully monitored, research fishing activities. Ocean plastic pollution is a global problem which the UK Government is actively working to reduce. Plastic pollution is monitored at a number of stations around Antarctica and through dedicated surveys. Plastic pollution is mainly arriving in Antarctica from outside of the region. Nevertheless, in addition to strict marine pollution regulations around Antarctica, UK flagged fishing vessels operating within the CCAMLR Convention Area have implemented measures to reduce or eliminate plastic microbeads from waste water. While MPAs will not tackle global climate change, one of the objectives for the Weddell Sea MPA proposal is to establish scientific reference areas to monitor the effects of climate change and to study, in particular, representative, rare, unique and/or endemic examples of marine ecosystems, as well as biodiversity and habitats.