March 1, 2018

CHINA: China Expands Exploration Of Antarctica. China Is Starting To Build Its Fifth Research Station On The Continent. Russia And China Block Creation Of Antarctic Marine Sanctuary In October.

CGTN America
written by Frances Kuo
Thursday February 22, 2018

It was magic number 34 for a Chinese research ship completing China’s 34th expedition in Antarctica.

Among the payoffs: witnessing first-hand remarkable scenes like a school of about 50 whales swimming nearby.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo reports.

“Our work mainly focuses on the Atlantic section near the Antarctica,” Li Tiegang, leader of the expedition team said. “China knew little about the area in the past, and this expedition fills in the gap.”

Meantime, China is starting to build its fifth research station on the continent – not an easy task.

“You see there, there’s no snow on the rocks over there, which means the wind is strong over there,” said Zhang Yi, of Tsinghua University’s Polar Building Center. ”We’ve chosen a site where the wind weakens, with little or no accumulation of snow.”

The station is on Antarctica’s southernmost waters that are accessible to ships.

Scientists said it’s a natural lab to study climate change.

“We will conduct research of the upper atmosphere, atmospheric sciences, geology, glaciers and oceans. It is particularly a good place for the study of oceanography, as there is a perennial ice lake on the Island, where we can make continuous marine science observation,” said Yang Huigen, Chief Scientist of China’s 34th Antarctic Expedition.

The hope is to complete the station within the next five years, providing year-round support for researchers.

Ultimately, the mission is to establish an observation and monitoring network. Steering that mission is a Chinese-developed ice rover which tested successfully in Antarctica.

It was able to maneuver over 200 kilometers of tricky terrain and probe 100 meters beneath the ice cap to explore potential expedition routes.

Even from their relatively isolated corner, the researchers’ work is accessible in real-time.

They recently conducted a live public lecture to students at primary and secondary schools in eastern China, piquing interest about this remote part of the world.

“I learned lots of knowledge that I may not get from books,” said Zhu Sijia, a high school student. “The geological structure and marine life of the Antarctica are not available at our ordinary classes, which broadened my horizon and helped me understand what I did not know before.”

That enthusiasm is driving some Chinese to see it for themselves.

China is the second largest source of visitors to the continent.

The government just established new rules for tourists to minimize their impact on the environment.

Beijing is encouraged by the increased fascination with Antarctica, something it hopes to build upon in the future.

Jonathan Harrington on China’s expanding Antarctic expedition

CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke with Jonathan Harrington, a professor of political science at Troy University, about China’s expanding exploration of Antarctica.
The Japan Times
written by AFP staff
Saturday October 28, 2017

SYDNEY – Hopes for a vast new marine sanctuary in pristine East Antarctica were dashed Saturday when a key conservation summit failed to reach agreement, with advocates urging “greater vision and ambition.”

Expectations were high ahead of the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) — a treaty tasked with overseeing protection and sustainable exploitation of the Southern Ocean.

Last year’s summit in Hobart, Australia, established a massive marine protected area around the Ross Sea following a push by the U.S. and New Zealand. It covers an area roughly the size of Britain, Germany and France combined.

But a push this year to create a second protected area in East Antarctica, spanning another 1 million square kilometers (386,000 square miles), failed. That effort was led by Australia and France.

Officials said Russia and China were the key stumbling blocks, worried about compliance issues and fishing rights. Consensus is needed from all 24 CCAMLR member countries and the European Union.

Greenpeace called for “greater vision and ambition” in the coming year.

WWF’s Antarctic program chief, Chris Johnson, said it was another missed opportunity. “We let differences get in the way of responding to the needs of fragile wildlife,” he said.

Australia’s chief delegate, Gillian Slocum, described the failure as “sad.” She also bemoaned little progress on addressing the impacts of climate change, which was having a “tangible effect” on the frozen continent.

“While CCAMLR was not able to adopt a Climate Change Response Work Program this year, members will continue to work together ahead of the next meeting to better incorporate climate-change impacts into the commission’s decision-making process,” she said.

Plans were set out in 2009 to establish a series of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean allowing marine life to migrate between areas for breeding and foraging, but it has been slow going.

Antarctica is home to penguins, seals, toothfish, whales and huge numbers of krill, a staple food for many species.

They are considered critical for scientists to study how marine ecosystems function and to understand the impacts of climate change on the ocean.

Andrea Kavanagh, head of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Antarctic and Southern Ocean work, said that, following last year’s historic Ross Sea designation, it was “disappointing that CCAMLR could not agree to protect more of the vast and biologically diverse Southern Ocean.” She said it is vital to “continue moving forward in the coming years by agreeing to further protections … or risk jeopardizing the health of the region’s intact ecosystems.”

A third German-backed plan is in the works to protect the Weddell Sea, which extends from the southeast of South America over 2.8 million square kilometers.

But it has been sent back for amendments.

A proposal for a fourth zone of 94,000 square kilometers around the Western Antarctic Peninsula was presented by Argentina and Chile, conservationists said.

The East Antarctica plan originally comprised seven large marine areas but was reduced to three as a compromise: MacRobertson, Drygalski and the D’Urville Sea-Mertz region.

The plan was for D’Urville to be a no-catch zone, which WWF said would aid a stricken Adelie penguin colony near the French Antarctic research station there.

Mass starvation wiped out thousands of chicks in the colony this year, with unusually thick sea ice, linked to the break-up of the Mertz glacier, forcing their parents to forage further for food. Only two survived.

While the East Antarctica proposal failed to get over the line, a research and monitoring plan to oversee the implementation of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area so scientists can better understand how it affects the ecosystem’s health was endorsed.

Protection of the Ross Sea takes effect from Dec. 1.

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