Human activities are more strictly regulated in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) than in surrounding waters. Placing these areas under protection is aimed at preserving biological diversity and habitat over the long-term and creating refuges for marine organisms of all kinds. The MPAs preserve biodiversity and create buffer zones in which highly stressed waters can regenerate and fish can reproduce and reach adulthood undisturbed. Adult fish may then migrate into surrounding areas where fishing is permitted. In a sense MPAs also contribute to sustainable fishery.
The MPAs are also very important for science: researchers can study the environmental impacts of human activities or observe an area's regeneration or the impact of climate change.
CCAMLR's commitment to the Antarctic Ocean
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources governs the extent to which and how fishing is permitted in the Antarctic Ocean. Furthermore CCAMLR decides, which areas are to be designated as Marine Protected Areas. Exhaustive works to elaborate scientific knowledge have resulted in concrete proposals to designate several MPAs in the Antarctic Ocean. The first MPA near the South Orkney Islands was established in 2009. It is the first MPA on the high seas and one of the largest worldwide (94,000 km2).
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM) aim to establish an entire network of protected areas in the Antarctic Ocean to ensure the protection and sustainable use of its marine biodiversity. It is the only way to guarantee protection of the ecosystems and natural marine resources in long-term. Proposals to declare MPAs in East Antarctica and the Ross Sea were made in 2012; however, a final decision is still outstanding. Currently a proposal for a MPA in the Weddell Sea is being developed by Germany.
By declaring MPAs the CCAMLR is also implementing decisions adopted at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and within the scope of the Convention on Biological Diversity − CBD which call for protection of ten percent of the world's oceans by 2020 and for the establishment of a coherent and well-connected system of protected areas in order to preserve marine biodiversity. A mere four percent of that target has been achieved up to now.
Under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty the Contracting Parties may also designate Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs) or Antarctic Specially Managed Areas (ASMAs) at the ATCM. These areas could include coastal zones or marine regions.