Ministry of the Environment initiative: More protection for Antarctica?

As of: 04/29/2022 6:19 p.m

Temperatures are rising and the polar ice caps are melting. The Federal Environment Ministry therefore wants to work for more protected areas in Antarctica. In addition, there will soon be a marine officer.

The Federal Environment Ministry wants to start an offensive for marine protection. A “binding and cross-departmental marine strategy” is being sought, said Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry for the Environment, Bettina Hoffmann, at an event in the Bundestag on the protection of the Southern Ocean.

One focus is on Antarctica: According to Hoffmann, there is agreement within the federal government to promote the designation of protected areas in the Southern Ocean. This applies in particular to the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. If the Weddell Sea could be protected, it would be one of the largest marine protected areas in the world, Hoffmann said. It is one of the last, almost untouched regions in Antarctica with a very large biodiversity. But according to experts, even that is already in danger.

Biodiversity at risk

Marine biologist Ralf Sonntag, who attended the event for the non-governmental organization World Future Council, said many of the species that were hunted in Antarctica 100 years ago have still not recovered. These included whales, seals and penguins.

If biodiversity decreases, entire ecosystems could become extinct and that would ultimately affect people as well. Therefore there must be a network of protected areas in the Southern Ocean to preserve the fragile ecosystems.

Marine biologist Ralf P. Sunday on the need to protect the world’s oceans and biodiversity

tagesschau24 3:45 p.m., April 29, 2022

Economic interests make protection difficult

According to State Secretary Hoffmann, the federal government has been working for years under the umbrella of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to establish a protected area in the Weddell Sea. So far, however, the project has failed due to the geopolitical and economic interests of Russia and China. Both countries would currently speak out against all proposals for a protected area in the Southern Ocean.

The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine makes international negotiations even more difficult, explained Hoffmann. A planned high-level meeting with China and Russia on marine protection was canceled against the background of the war.

Environmental aid: Marine protection is climate protection

Environmental organizations have long been pushing for greater protection of the oceans. Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Federal Director of the German Environmental Aid, pointed out that the Southern Ocean stores more carbon than any other ocean. Marine protection is therefore also climate protection. New protected areas must now finally be created, he demanded. The federal government must work towards this.

State Secretary Hoffmann announced that the Federal Government would create the position of a new Commissioner for the Sea. She did not initially give any further details.

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