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Pranathi asked: What could be the motive behind certain counties demanding Ross Sea to be declared as a marine protected area?

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  • Sarabjeet Singh Parmar replies: The proposal to declare the Ross Sea region as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) was put forth by New Zealand and the US in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting held in Hobart in 2012. In addition, a proposal to establish an MPA in the East Antarctica Area was also put forth by France, Australia and the EU. The proposals were also discussed in the special meeting of CCAMLR held in July 2013 in Germany. The proposals are still under consideration and would be discussed in further meetings. The proposed Ross Sea Region MPA encompasses roughly 2.27 million square kilometres. In 1.6 million square kilometres of the MPA, research fishing would be the only fishing permitted.

    The CCAMLR of 1980 is one of the three international agreements that along with the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 form the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). The other two agreements are Convention for Conservation of Antarctic Seals of 1972 (CCAS) and Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty of 1991 (Environment or Madrid Protocol). Both CCAMLR and CCAS look at protecting living creatures. All 50 signatory nations are bound to honour all the four components of the ATS. Out of the 50 nations, 28 are consultative parties and 22 are non consultative parties. Consultative status enables nations to take part in the decision making in the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM). The non consultative parties due to their accession to the treaty can attend the ATCMs but are not part of the decision making.

    The main essence of the proposal is to protect the area’s ecological structure, environment and promote research and other scientific activities amongst other reasons. This is apparently the main motive. As the proposal needs the approval of the consultative nations, any proposal that looks at any interest that does not contribute towards the ATS would in all probability be rejected.