Morning photo: Antarctica wildlife

Plans to protect Antarctic marine biodiversity falter

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Fur, elephant and Weddell seals are share this beach on Dundee Island.

FRISCO — For all its reputation as an icy wasteland, Antarctica actually teams with life, which makes it all the more disappointing that an international conservation commission once again failed to finalize plans for long-sought marine protected areas in the Ross Sea and off the coast of East Antarctica. The finger is being pointed at Russia, acting as a rogue nation to block those conservation plans, but in reality, it’s up the rest of the world community to encourage Russia to come back to the table in October in good faith at the next scheduled CCAMLR meeting.  In the meantime, here are a few pictures showing what’s at stake. Read more Summit Voice Antarctica stories here. Continue reading

Argentina creates new marine reserves in Patagonia

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Parts of Patagonia‘s spectacular coastline will have more protection following the designation of two new marine preserves.

Isla Pingüino and Makenke Coastal Marine Park provide habitat for seabirds and marine mammals

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Dolphins, penguins, seabirds and sea lions along the coast of Patagonia will get more protection in a pair of new marine protected areas designated by Argentina this week.

Both areas were identified as priority conservation sites under the collaborative Patagonia Coastal Zone Management Plan project, covering an area where Charles Darwin traveled, and where Ferdinand Magellan executed and marooned a group of mutineers intent on aborting what would become the world’s first circumnavigation of the globe.

Darwin first described the wildlife of Isla Pingüino in 1833, during his seminal voyage aboard the HMS Beagle — now, the  Isla Pingüino Coastal Marine Park will protect about 720 square miles, including habitat for large populations of South American sea lions, red-legged cormorants, and one of the largest colonies of imperial cormorants found anywhere (with more than 8,000 breeding pairs). Isla Pingüino also boasts one of the only colonies of rockhopper penguins on the coast of Patagonia. Continue reading

Antarctica conservation group fails to reach deal

Proposals for Ross Sea, East Antarctica marine preserves falter at annual CCAMLR meeting; special session set for next summer in Germany

New preserves would protect biodiversity. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Proposals to create vast new marine preserves in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica floundered during the final stages of an international meeting in Hobart, Tasmania this week, as several major stakeholders couldn’t get completely comfortable with the procedural steps required to create those protected areas.

Despite the fact that there was no formal agreement, conservation advocates said there were some significant steps forward during the talks, according to Paul Gamblin, marine protected area manager for the WWF. Gamblin said several countries participating in the talks also needed a bit more time to understand the scientific basis for the far-reaching conservation proposals.

“As far as East Antarctica, it’s not that there was opposition to the idea … but some concerns about the detail and process, what fishing could happen where … there was some discomfort with the process around that,” Gamblin said. “Fishing is one of the issues on which countries want to be in a position where they want to be comfortable with the advice from scientists,” he said. Continue reading

Antarctica: U.S. proposes huge Ross Sea marine preserve

Plan includes some fishing limits in critical zones but leaves other areas open to commercial exploitation

A leopard seal on an Antarctic ice floe. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

The Ross Sea is due south of New Zealand.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A proposed new conservation zone in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica could help preserve one the most productive and pristine ecosystems in the Southern Ocean.

The Ross Sea continental shelf encompasses one of the most productive ecosystems of the Southern Ocean — it’s one of the few places in the world that retains its full community of top-level predators. As such, it supports a unique community of species, including one-third of the world’s Adélie penguins, one quarter of the world population of emperor penguins, half of the Southern Pacific population of Weddell seals, and half of the world’s Ross Sea killer whales.

The U.S. will propose designating 700,000 square miles of the sea as a marine protected area during the upcoming meeting of the Antarctic conservation commission. Protection of the Ross Sea would recognize the area’s  unparalleled scientific research possibilities, high biological diversity, and as-yet intact ecosystems, which make it an area of tremendous conservation and scientific value for current and future generations. Continue reading

Costa Rica protects huge marine area at Cocos Island

Hammerhead sharks, leatherback turtles to be protected under new fishing rules

Costa Rica's Cocos Island boasts more sharks per cubic yard of water than perhaps any other place on the planet, including whitetip reef sharks, 40-foot whale sharks, and hammerheads that school by the hundreds. Now these and other apex predators and flagship species, crucial to healthy ocean ecosystems, can swim a little easier - thanks to new protective measures by Costa Rica. © Conservation International/ photo by Sterling Zumbrunn

Endangered Leatherback turtles will benefit from a new protected area around Costa Rica's Cocos Island. © Conservation International. Jason Bradley photo/bradleyphotographic.com.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A newly designated marine reserve around Costa Rica’s Cocos Island will help protect endangered species like hammerhead sharks and leatherback turtles. New rules will also help recover fish stocks that are important to local communities, according to Conservation International, a nonprofit group that worked with the Costa Rican government to establish the management area.

The new conservation rules will likely forbid fishing altogether in some zones, and limit it to sustainable levels in the rest of the area.

The Seamounts Marine Management Area encompasses a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers about 2.45 million acres — bigger than Yellowstone National Park. Only Galapagos National Park protects a larger area in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Continue reading

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