A warming climate and an ever-expanding commercial fishing industry are threatening Antarctica and its iconic creatures

A Commerson's Dolphin rings the bow wave of the Greenpeace icebreaker, the Arctic Sunrise, en route to the Weddell Sea. CHRISTIAN ASLUND/GREENPEACE

22 MAY 2018

Almost half of our planet is a vast ocean, lying beyond national borders, belonging to us all. But these blue expanses are a huge resource that experts say need to be better managed and protected.

In fact, leading scientists say we should be safeguarding at least one-third of our oceans to allow them to recover and build resilience to the multiple threats that are developing across the world.

And that applies especially to one of the remotest regions on Earth – Antarctica.

The Antarctic Ocean is one of the world’s last great wildernesses, home to spectacular biodiversity from killer whales to starfish. But a warming climate and an ever-expanding commercial fishing industry are threatening this undisturbed land and its iconic creatures. 

Now a bid is under way to create the world’s largest protected area – a massive Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary. It would cover 1.8 million square kilometres of the remote and rich Weddell Sea, home to some of the coldest waters on Earth and an estimated 14,000 species.

The proposal, formulated by Germany and backed by the EU, will come up for a decision when the group of nations who oversee Antarctica meet in Hobart, Australia in October.

The marine protected area would create a safe haven for wildlife like whales and penguins, putting the waters off-limits to the industrial fishing vessels that harvest the tiny shrimp-like krill, on which all Antarctic life relies. 

Greenpeace sent a team of scientists and campaigners down to these wild, desolate waters to create a body of evidence in support of the proposal and the expedition returned with some spectacular images.

The Drake Passage between the tip of South America and Antarctica is home to some of the most treacherous seas on Earth. This is where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet and the weather systems keep rolling through. CHRISTIAN ASLUND/GREENPEACE

Antarctica is home to an enormous abundance of wildlife and you’ll see penguins on shore as well as out at sea on icebergs. CHRISTIAN ASLUND/GREENPEACE

The Adelie penguin, which got its name from a French explorer who named them after his wife Adele. It’s the smallest species of penguin in Antarctica and is known to feed on jellyfish. CHRISTIAN ASLUND/GREENPEACE

The Arctic Sunrise steams south towards the Weddell Sea. CHRISTIAN ASLUND/GREENPEACE

Cape Petrels regularly follow ships at sea in Antarctic waters, hoping for food items thrown up by the ships’ propellers. DANIEL BELTRA/GREENPEACE

The Arctic Sunrise nudges through the icy waters of the Weddell Sea and the proposed Sanctuary zone. DANIEL BELTRA/GREENPEACE

The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest single mass of ice on Earth. But parts of it are breaking off and melting at an alarming rate. DANIEL BELTRA/GREENPEACE

A helicopter’s view of the sheer scale and majesty of ice formations in Antarctic waters. This giant iceberg was once part of the Antarctic ice sheet, now broken off and slowly melting into the sea. DANIEL BELTRA/GREENPEACE

Throughout the expedition scientists were taking samples and learning as much as possible about these unknown waters, to form a body of evidence to support the Sanctuary proposal. STEVE MORGAN/GREENPEACE


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