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    Scientific justification for a marine protected area designation around the Balleny Islands to protect ecosystem structure and function in the Ross Sea region, Antarctica: progress report

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    Delegation of New Zealand
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    In 2000, the New Zealand delegation to CCAMLR proposed the designation of an Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) around the Balleny Islands. Since that time, research has continued to focus on the value of the area on and around the Balleny Islands, and the potential benefits of establishing a Balleny Islands Marine Protected Area (MPA). The ecological importance of the Balleny Islands can be aligned with both the CCAMLR ecosystem-wide conservation objectives and the values found in Article 3 of Annex V to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. This paper’s focus is on the CCAMLR values.
    A review of existing information reveals that the Balleny Islands are uniquely situated to provide essential breeding and foraging habitat for large populations of top predator populations dependent on locally high abundances of Antarctic krill. Due to tight trophic coupling and the relative intactness of the Ross Sea ecosystem, disruption of predator foraging opportunities by human activities and/or competition between predators and fisheries for available prey can be expected to have considerable indirect effects on other aspects of the ecosystem. The area around the Balleny Islands also includes the only known habitat in the region for juvenile toothfish, and perhaps also for early developmental stages of Antarctic krill, both of which are critical for ecosystem function and for the sustainability of existing and potential fisheries in the region. A strategically located Balleny Islands MPA extending outward from the islands would provide a critical buffer between ecologically important populations and human activities (including existing and potential fisheries), and some measure of protection against unpredictable and potentially negative ecosystem impacts, consistent with the conservation mandate of the CAMLR Convention. Such a designation could also be highly valuable for the advancement of marine science, consistent with the principles of the Antarctic Treaty.