India has extended its support for protecting the Antarctic environment and co-sponsoring a proposal of the European Union for designating East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the Ministry of Earth Sciences said on Thursday.
He urged the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) member countries to ensure that India remains associated with the formulation, adaptation and implementation mechanisms of these MPAs in future. “India supports sustainability in protecting the Antarctic environment,” Singh said.
“India has extended support for protecting the Antarctic environment and for co-sponsoring the proposal of the European Union for designating East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs),” the MoES said.
Singh said the proposal to designate East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as MPAs was first put forth to the commission in 2020 but a consensus could not be reached at that time. He said, since then, substantial progress has been made with Australia, Norway, Uruguay and the United Kingdom agreeing to co-sponsor the proposal. The minister added that by the end of October 2021, India would join these countries in co-sponsoring the MPA proposals.
Singh informed the EU delegates that India had embarked on Antarctic expedition in 1981, through the Southern Indian Ocean sector and since then, there has been no turning back. He said till date, India had completed 40 expeditions with plans for the 41st expedition in 2021-22.
Singh said this is the first time India is considering co-sponsoring an MPA proposal at CCAMLR and getting aligned with countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Korea, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA, which are also proactively considering supporting the MPA proposals.
The minister said India’s decision to consider extending support and co-sponsoring the MPA proposals is driven by conservation and sustainable utilisation principles and adhering to the global cooperation frameworks such as Sustainable Development Goals, UN Decade of Oceans, Convention on Biodiversity, etc., to which India is a signatory.
The high-level ministerial meeting was hosted virtually by Virginijus Sinkevicius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, EU. It was attended by ministers, ambassadors and country commissioners from nearly 18 countries. The meeting aimed to increase the number of co-sponsors of the MPA proposals and reflected on a joint strategy and future actions for their swift adoption by CCAMLR.
CCAMLR is an international treaty to manage Antarctic fisheries to preserve species diversity and stability of the entire Antarctic marine ecosystem. It came into force in April 1982. India has been a permanent member of CCAMLR since 1986. Work pertaining to CCAMLR is coordinated in India by the Ministry of Earth Sciences through its attached office, the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE) in Kochi, Kerala.
A marine protected area provides protection for all or part of its natural resources. Certain activities within an MPA are limited or prohibited to meet specific conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring, or fisheries management objectives. Since 2009, CCAMLR members have developed proposals for MPAs for various regions of the Southern Ocean. CCAMLR’s scientific committee examines these proposals. After CCAMLR members agree upon them, elaborate conservation measures are set out by the commission.