30th June 2021 | Climate Change, Environment, EU, Marine, Press Releases

Green Party MEP calls for the largest act of marine protection in history

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Irish Green Party MEP Grace O’Sullivan tabled a motion in the European Parliament today (30 June) to designate over 3 million square kilometres of the East Antarctic and Weddell Seas as Marine Protected Areas, in potentially the largest act of marine protection in history.

MEP O’Sullivan commented;

“I first set foot on Antarctic ice in 1986 as an activist with Greenpeace where we campaigned for the protection of Antarctica, one of the last true wildernesses on earth, as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science. As an MEP, I have been able to continue that activism and support EU efforts to protect the delicate biodiversity of the Antarctic which plays such an important role in climate regulation. I will bring this motion to a vote in the European Parliament next week, in order to further strengthen our international solidarity for these measures.”

The creation of the marine protected areas will be overseen by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) with international agreement. It has support from the EU commission and has recently been adopted as an official policy goal of the United States in an executive order issued by President Joe Biden. The designations would move the world nearly 1 percent closer to achieving the goal of protecting 30 percent of the global ocean, called for in 2016 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

The tabling of the motion marks the 60th Anniversary of the international Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) to conserve the Antarctic region and southern seas. Ireland is one only a few EU countries not to have signed up to the treaty to date.

Minister of State for Heritage & Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, has called for the Irish Government to become full members of the Treaty;

“Over the past 30 years, Antarctica has warmed by 1.8 degrees, three times more than the global average, which has an enormous impact on ocean acidification, sea levels and marine life. The window of opportunity to avert the worst impacts of climate change and reverse the decline in biodiversity in the Antarctic is narrowing by the day. Ireland should take its place on the world stage by signing up to the Treaty and aligning with our EU partners.

“I wrote to the Taoiseach on this issue some months ago and am delighted that he is now engaging with the Minister for Foreign Affairs to take the preparatory steps towards accession to the ATS. Given this Government’s commitment to climate change, biodiversity and multilateralism,  and indeed our recent application for observer status with the Arctic Council, this is a very welcome step.”

The Resolution tabled by Grace O’Sullivan will be debated in the European Parliament on Wednesday 7th July and the vote will follow thereafter.