Salons, Events, Forums

Outcomes of the first Future of Antarctica Forum; Distinguishing Climate Change Impacts from Other Impacts in the Antarctic Peninsula

Summary

The first Future of Antarctica Forum was convened by Oceanites, Inc. and held February 28 – March 9, 2016 in the Antarctic Peninsula. Major Antarctic stakeholders were present during the Forum, including representatives from the tourism and fishing industries, all of whom actively engaged in these discussions and made it clear that they have shared objectives.

All stakeholder participants agreed on the importance of continued monitoring of the sensitive Antarctic Peninsula region and challenged Oceanites, because of its Antarctic Site Inventory project’s 22-year history monitoring this region, to distinguish the direct and interactive effects of climate change, fishing, tourism, and national operations on ecosystems in the Antarctic Peninsula region for improved environmental management. Oceanites accepted the challenge to bring together and analyze relevant data, with assistance as possible from the Forum participants, and with encouragement to keep the ATCM, CCAMLR, and all stakeholders informed as this effort proceeds. In particular, with assistance from IAATO and the Association of Responsible Krill Fishers (ARK), it is hoped that analyses can assist management of krill in the vicinity of penguin breeding and foraging locations.

Background 

From February 28 – March 9, 2016, Oceanites, Inc. convened the first Future of Antarctica Forum, on board the One Ocean Expeditions Inc. vessel MV Akademik Ioffe during an Antarctic Peninsula expedition. Participants included individuals from a range of stakeholder groups, with a shared objective of upholding the principles of the Antarctic Treaty System, notably in relation to peace, science, and conservation.

The Forum provided a unique opportunity to discuss collaborative ways in which the protection and conservation of Antarctica, as envisioned by the Antarctic Treaty, its Protocol on Environmental Protection, and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), could be secured into the future. Most notably, the Forum provided a rare opportunity for participation by representatives from both the tourism and fishing industries in discussions about the future management of human activities in Antarctica.

Participants included: Ray Arnaudo (Former US head of delegation to ATCM and CCAMLR); Steven Chown (Monash University, Australia); Claire Christian (Acting Executive Director, ASOC); Kim Crosbie (Executive Director, IAATO); Harriet Getzels (Getzels Gordon Productions, producer, The Penguin Counters); Peter Getzels (Getzels Gordon Productions, producer, The Penguin Counters); Máximo Gowland (Antarctic Directorate, Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs); Cilia Indahl (Director of Sustainability, Aker BioMarine); Denzil Miller (Director, Antarctic Tasmania and Science Research and former Executive Secretary, CCAMLR); Ron Naveen (President/Founder, Oceanites, Inc.); Andrew Prossin (Managing Director, One Ocean Expeditions Inc.); and Jane Rumble (UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Polar Regions Department). Mark Epstein, formerly the Executive Director of ASOC could not attend, but greatly assisted Oceanites in planning for and organizing the Forum.

Forum discussions and outcomes

Seven different “Future of Antarctica Forum” sessions were held during the 10-day trip, under Chatham House Rules. The Forum was organized around three topics: Antarctic Governance; Science in Antarctica; and Education and Communications about and for Antarctica. These sessions ran in parallel with public presentations, discussion sessions, and after-dinner chats by Forum participants and facilitators with the ship’s guests and passengers.

The participants concluded that the basic principles expressed in the landmark international agreements governing Antarctica – the Antarctic Treaty, its Protocol on Environmental Protection, and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) – had been successful in the governance and environmental protection of the Antarctic, to date.

However, participants also noted that to meet the challenges associated with a rapidly changing world, the Antarctic Treaty System needs to continue evolving in the 21st century. Increasing and enhancing the use of the scientific data and information available to assist decision-making, and ongoing, improved cooperation and coordination among all stakeholders will be essential to ensuring that Antarctica remains a continent of peace, science, and conservation.

The key roles of Antarctic science, management and diplomacy in addressing climate change emerged as a central theme of the discussions. In the context of broader overall changes across the Antarctic and Southern Oceans, the notable warming trend in the western Antarctic Peninsula, and its implications for ecosystems, was identified as a significant concern. The participants also concluded that it would be crucial to ensure that human activities in this region are managed in a way that does not exacerbate climatic stresses on the ecosystem. It was agreed that future policy decisions in this regard would be significantly aided by an interdisciplinary, international effort to seek to:
“Distinguish the direct and interactive effects of climate change, fishing, tourism, and national operations on ecosystems in the Antarctic Peninsula region for improved environmental management.”

Given Oceanites’ Antarctic Site Inventory project, which, over the past 22 years has delivered sustained scientific monitoring across the Antarctic Peninsula, the participants suggested that Oceanites pursue development of a project along the above lines, working with relevant stakeholders in the collaborative spirit of the Antarctic Treaty System.

Participants suggested that the outcomes of this work would further provide Antarctic Treaty Parties with the best possible scientific data and information to inform evidence- based decision-making. Moreover, public communication of the outcomes would help improve global understanding of the role of Antarctica in the climate system, of the impacts the region is already experiencing, and the work being done through the Antarctic Treaty System to mitigate these impacts.

Oceanites accepted the challenge of establishing an international interdisciplinary effort to bring together available scientific, tourism and fisheries data for the Antarctic Peninsula region. It would be an attempt to distinguish the direct and interactive effects of climate change and other human activities on the ecosystem. The other forum participants agreed to support Oceanites in this work, as appropriate; and expressed their hope that other Treaty Parties would also agree that such a project would be useful, and to share any requested data, as far as possible.

Ongoing work, post-Forum

With assistance of Forum participants, Oceanites has taken these steps to advance the challenge:

  • Ensured ‘core sites’ Antarctic Site Inventory data collection on seven Antarctic Peninsula tour ship departures during the forthcoming 2016-17 Antarctic field season;
  • Assisted in moving the Mapping Application for Penguin Populations and Projected Dynamics tool (MAPPPD) from beta to ‘live’ and make it publicly available on the Internet;
  • Ensured ongoing collaboration with the Lynch Lab for Quantitative Ecology, Stony Brook University, to maintain the Antarctic Site Inventory database and the ongoing maintenance of MAPPPD;
  • Ensured ongoing collaboration with Penguin Lifelines, University of Oxford, in regard to analyses of environmental changes in the Antarctic Peninsula and future, automated transfers of penguin camera data to MAPPPD;
  • Concluded a memorandum of understanding with Aker BioMarine AS that will enable Oceanites to independently analyze the company’s krill fishing catch/effort data vis-a-vis data on penguin breeding/foraging locations and climate change impacts in the Antarctic Peninsula;
  • Begun analysis of automatic identification system (AIS) data Oceanites has obtained commercially and its utility in spatially and temporally quantifying, assessing, and distinguishing the direct and interactive effects of climate change, fishing, tourism, and national operations on the Antarctic Peninsula ecosystem.