you're reading...

Climate Change

Who Governs the Ocean Around Antarctica?

Source: Choquet, A., F. Chloe, D. Anatole, and M. Camille (2018), Governing the Southern Ocean: The science-policy interface as thorny issue. Environmental Science & Policy, 89, 23-29. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2018.06.017

A Pristine Environment?

Antarctica is often considered an untouched wilderness. While its location is remote, the region is hardly undisturbed by human activity. Exploitation of marine species, tourism, scientific research activities, and anthropogenic climate change are all impacting Antarctic ecosystems. Managing the many stakeholders can be challenging given the unique international governance system in the region.

Human activities in the Antarctic are regulated by treaties, as well as national and international bodies. The map below shows the countries with territorial claims in Antarctica. The governance of Southern Ocean marine territories is similarly complex. The region includes the largest marine protected area in the world, which is managed by a number of different groups.

Map showing territorial claims over Antarctica (Wikimedia Commons).

New Challenges

Anne Choquet led a recent study out of the Centre for the Law and Economics of the Sea in France examining the new governance challenges for Southern Ocean marine ecosystems due to climate change. Ocean warming and acidification will create new conservation challenges for many marine organisms. Furthermore, environmental changes will impact the logistics of operations in the region.

One example of this is the effect of melting ice on access to resources. Commercial fishing in much of the Antarctic is difficult, as evidenced by the trapped fishing boat in the picture below. This may change in the future, however, as sea ice extent recedes. Similarly, the number of visitors may also increase due to easier access by tourist ships. New policies will need to be put in place to regulate the increased economic activity and ensure the sustainability of Southern Ocean ecosystems.

Fishing vessel trapped in the ice off Antarctica. The boat had to be rescued by a U.S. Coast guard icebreaker (U.S. Coast Guard via Wikimedia Commons).

Southern Ocean management decisions are made at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCMs). These meetings include representatives from all the Antarctic Treaty member states as well as from the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) – an interdisciplinary and international group of scientists that coordinates long-term ecological research throughout the Southern Ocean. The prominent SCAR presence at ATCMs makes Antarctic governance relatively unique. In other words, decision-making has more direct scientific input than would be likely for a single sovereign nation.

Choquet argues that the strong use of scientific research and the collective responsibility embodied by the Antarctic Treaty System makes tackling the challenges associated with climate change more tractable. Whereas individual nations act in their own interest, the treaty system ensures that the Southern Ocean is governed for the “benefit of mankind.” Maintaining this mission is crucial in the coming decades as Antarctica assumes greater strategic and commercial importance.

Case Study in Cooperation

Antarctic governance is critical given the outsize role the region plays in regulating the earth’s climate. The Southern Ocean absorbs nearly 30% of the carbon and 90% of the heat associated with anthropogenic climate change. Further scientific research is necessary to determine how the Southern Ocean’s ability to absorb carbon will change in the future, and investigating these processes will help improve future climate predictions. In addition to scientific pursuits however, it is important to use this knowledge to ensure sustainable management of marine territories. In this way, the Antarctic can serve as a model for international cooperation and science-based policy decisions regarding climate change adaptation and mitigation.


No comments yet.

Post a Comment


  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 12 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 12 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 1 year ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com