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Marine Science



Antarctic rally for peace, science and greater penguin protection. On May 27th, activists and scientific experts will gather at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to call on Germany and other countries that are meeting at two key meetings this week in Berlin- the G7 environment, climate and energy ministers meeting and an Antarctic conference- to unite in the name of peace and science and take urgent action to protect Antarctica’s ocean and its wildlife.

“For more than six decades Antarctica has been a symbol of peace and science since the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959. If countries were able to come together at the height of the Cold War and agree to work together for the benefit of humanity, they can do so again for the planet in the face of catastrophic climate change.” said Claire Christian, Executive Director of the Antarctic Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC).

The rally that is being organised by ASOC and its partners, including the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, Blue Nature Alliance, Deutsche Umwelthilfe, Greenpeace, UNLESS, renowned wildlife photographer John Weller, Fridays for Future and Scientists for Future, including  AWI’s for Future, hopes to raise awareness of the huge threats facing the region and its wildlife from the climate crisis.

Amid a backdrop of compelling Antarctic images and short films, a large melting penguin ice sculpture will be displayed at the rally to symbolize the pressure these species are under in the region. Emperor Penguin protection is one of the topics being discussed at the 44th Antarctic Treaty Consultation Meeting. Warming temperatures are accelerating the melting and loss of sea ice that penguins rely upon to breed and feed. This is compounded by commercial fishing that is endangering the homes and food of penguins and other wildlife.

Dangerous climate change in the region is not only threatening penguin populations, but has wider ramifications:

“Antarctica and its surrounding ocean support key functions of our planet and its climate. This includes the uptake of heat and CO2, the distribution of nutrients and a productivity that feeds a huge fraction of ocean life. But the increasing melt of ice sheets is a risk to humanity at large. Furthermore, it is a mission to humanity to protect Antarctic life from an increasing number of risks such as warming and pollution.“ said Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius, Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).

Activists are calling for urgent action to stop fossil fuel use that warms the planet and melts Antarctica and to act now to establish a system of marine protected areas to protect vital habitats in the region. Members of the Antarctic Treaty system should agree on climate change action in the region that has marine protection at its core.

“While marine protected areas can’t protect Antarctica from a changing climate, they can reduce the impact of fishing on the Southern Ocean,” said Andrea Kavanagh, director of Antarctic and Southern Ocean conservation work for the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, which is advocating for additional Southern Ocean MPAs. “And stopping fishing in certain areas builds resilience not only of ecosystems but also of species such as penguins, helping them better adapt to warming.”

Germany is a co-sponsor of an Antarctic marine protected area (MPA) proposal in the Weddell Sea, a key penguin habitat. This proposal is part of a package of three MPA proposals that campaigners are calling for urgent adoption later this October at another Antarctic Treaty related body- the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).