Declaring these regions as Marine Protected Areas would curb illegal unreported and unregulated fishing

India has extended support for co-sponsoring the proposal of the European Union for designating East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Spelling out the country's stand at a high-level ministerial meeting organised by the European Union (EU) on Thursday evening, Union Minister of State for Earth Sciences Jitendra Singh said, “India supports sustainability in protecting the Antarctic environment".

He noted that the two proposed MPAs are essential to regulate illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, said the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Singh urged the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) member countries to ensure that India remains associated with the formulation, adaptation and implementation mechanisms of these MPAs in future.

An MPA is a marine protected area that provides protection for all or part of its natural resources. Certain activities within an MPA are limited or prohibited to meet specific conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring, or fisheries management objectives.

This is the first time India is considering co-sponsoring an MPA proposal at the CCAMLR and getting aligned with countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Korea, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA, which are also proactively considering supporting the MPA proposals.

India's decision to consider extending support and co-sponsoring the MPA proposals was driven by conservation and sustainable utilization principles and adhering to the global cooperation frameworks (such as Sustainable Development Goals, UN Decade of Oceans, Convention on Biodiversity, etc.) to which India is a signatory, Singh pointed out.

The proposal to designate East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as MPAs was first put forth to the CCAMLR in 2020 but could not reach a consensus at that time.

Substantial progress has been made since then, with Australia, Norway, Uruguay and the United Kingdom agreeing to co-sponsor the proposal, Singh noted.

The Minister added that by the end of October 2021, India would join these countries in co-sponsoring the MPA proposals.

Singh informed the EU Delegates that India had embarked on Antarctic expedition in 1981, through the Southern Indian Ocean sector and since then, there has been no turning back.

He said, till date, India had completed 40 expeditions with plans for the 41st expedition in 2021-22.

The high-level ministerial meeting was hosted virtually by VirginijusSinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, EU.

It was attended by Ministers, Ambassadors and Country Commissioners from nearly 18 countries.

The meeting aimed to increase the number of co-sponsors of the MPA proposals and reflect on a joint strategy and future actions for their swift adoption by CCAMLR.

CCAMLR, which came into force in April 1982, is an international treaty to manage Antarctic fisheries to preserve species diversity and stability of the entire Antarctic marine ecosystem.

India has been a permanent member of the CCAMLR since 1986.

Work pertaining to the CCAMLR is coordinated in India by the Ministry of Earth Sciences through its attached office, the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE) in Kochi, Kerala.