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Marine Science



Antarctic meeting fails to protect emperor penguins despite growing threats to Antarctica. The 44th Antarctic Treaty Consultative meeting ended, failing to put in place urgent measures to address the increasing threats to the Antarctic environment. Environmental organisations expressed deep concern and frustration that progress on key issues were stymied, including the adoption of a climate change action plan and protection of key species.

A proposal by the UK to designate emperor penguins as a specially protected species was not adopted. Despite the support of many governments for this well-researched action plan to protect this species that is at risk of extinction by 2100, China argued that further science is still needed on the threats facing this species.

“ASOC is baffled that such a strong proposal was not accepted. All the countries that are Party to the Antarctic Treaty and the Protocol have obligations to protect Antarctic species. This designation would have been a logical step to mitigate the threats to a magnificent species that is loved by people all over the world.” Said Claire Christian, Executive Director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition.

Similarly, the adoption of a comprehensive plan to respond to climate change was also blocked at the meeting, despite undeniable scientific evidence that shows Antarctica is on the frontline of the climate crisis. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the state-of-the-art scientific assessment on climate change by hundreds of scientists globally – gives a dire warning of the risks to the region and the planet of not acting.

“The failure of the members states to agree to measures that help protect Antarctica and its wildlife is at complete odds with the reality of the climate crisis. Just last week in Berlin, people both young and old gathered at a rally calling for urgent action to protect Antarctica. Governments have a duty to act. They will meet again later this year to agree on accelerating Antarctic Ocean protection, and we expect nothing less” said Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Executive Director of Deutsche Umwelthilfe.

Some progress was made on tourism with the adoption of a Resolution expressing opposition to certain types of permanent tourism infrastructure. Very few mandatory measures on tourism are in place, despite growing numbers of tourists to the region each year and increasing impacts of climate change on the fragile environment and wildlife, including emperor penguins. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) predict 106,006 visitors will come to Antarctica in 2022-2023, up from 74, 401 during the 2019-2020 season.