Antarctica should concern us all

Antarctica should concern us all

Despite being a continent that has seen the least damage by humans, Antarctica has also had its share of the detrimental impact of human activities on marine environments.

The population of krill, a tiny crustacean that is crucial to the Antarctic ecosystem, has been in decline due to industrial fishery.

These creatures are brutally hunted for use in fish oil supplements and as bait for fish farms.

The total population of krill, which has declined by 80 percent since 1970 due to the melting of the glaciers, is now under threat from industrial fishery. The whole ecosystem is actually in danger, because all living beings in Antarctica either eat krill or another species that eats krill. Every animal, from giant whales to penguins, depends on the existence of krill in order for its survival and sustainability.

If the population of krill continues to decline, animals will not be able to find enough food and will lose their natural habitat.

Even if some people argue that the population of krill is enough and that industrial fishery does not constitute a big threat to the environmental sustainability, we should not forget animals have become extinct due to excessive hunting. After all, it was not aliens but humans, who have led to the extinction of passenger pigeons, who once had a population around 5 billion.

‘World’s biggest protection zone’ for oceans

The decline in the population of krill means oceans, which are the world’s largest carbon sink, will be ruined and the struggle with climate change will become increasingly challenging. This is why Greenpeace launched the global campaign “Save the Arctic” on Jan. 15. The organization’s special ship Arctic Sunrise, which can navigate through glaciers in polar zones, started its three-month journey in the South Pole.

The ship’s first famous guest was actor and Antarctic ambassador Javier Bardem. The ship will also host scientists who will carry out scientific research on relevant issues.

The campaign aims to create “the world’s largest protected area” in the Weddell Sea, a sea in the Antarctic Ocean, by declaring a 1.8 million square meter area as a “protected area.”

The aim is for the proposal of the world’s largest protected area, which will be presented in October, to be approved by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

The commission established by the international convention in 1982 with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life, is responsible for preserving the continent’s marine ecosystem and ocean territory. Protected ocean areas are areas protected from activities that involve direct human impact, such as fishery, oil exploration and mining.

We come across more species and richer biodiversity in well-protected ocean areas. While many sea species are negatively affected by climate change, pollution and excessive hunting, the protection of the oceans will ensure that marine wildlife and the ecosystem will be improved and restored.

Surely, it is not just about protecting whales and penguins. As the fish population is restored, it will spread all over the world. Healthy oceans protect us from the negative effects of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide.

Millions of people live off food that comes from the oceans. Oceans are not only crucial for the struggle against climate change, but are also a source of food for the global population.

If the oceans are fine, then we are fine too.

Melis Alphan, hdn, Opinion