The WSMPA project in a nutshell
The Weddell Sea is located east of the Antarctic Peninsula in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. It is one of the last untouched marine areas in the world, not least because the Weddell Sea has so far not been a target of large scale and commercial fisheries operations. In order to conserve the unique biodiversity of this area for the future, there have been plans to protect a large area of the Weddell Sea. Researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and other international institutions have been studying the Weddell Sea ecosystem for decades. The data and scientific findings are the basis for the development of a Weddell Sea Marine Protected Area (WSMPA) proposal and its international negotiations.
In 2012, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) welcomed the offer of Germany to prepare a proposal for an MPA in the Weddell Sea. Following four years of data collection and analyses by AWI experts, the European Union (on behalf of Germany and the other EU Member States) proposed an MPA in the Weddell Sea for the first time in the CCAMLR framework in 2016. The original WSMPA proposal was split into two sub-proposals in 2018: WSMPA Phase 1 (west of the prime meridian) and WSMPA Phase 2 (east of the prime meridian). Since then, a Norwegian team of scientists has been redeveloping the scientific basis for the WSMPA Phase 2 conservation proposal, while the German team modified the original WSMPA conservation proposal to include only Phase 1. The detailed history of the WSMPA planning initiative is described in Teschke et al. (2021). Since then, the WSMPA Phase 1 proposal has been regularly updated and resubmitted annually to CCAMLR to reflect important scientific findings and discoveries. The establishment of the WSMPA would also be an important component for nature and species conservation and could contribute to the achievement of the UN protected area target ("30x30" target).
Over the years, more and more CCAMLR Member States supported the WSMPA Phase 1 proposal. Co-sponsors of this year's (2022) WSMPA Phase 1 proposal were, in addition to the EU and its Member States, Norway, Uruguay, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the United States of America, the Republic of Korea, India, Ukraine and Chile. Unfortunately, unanimous adoption by CCAMLR could not be achieved again this year.
A general overview of MPAs and the Weddell Sea, as well as detailed information on the WSMPA initiative, can be found on the following pages.