Health: Bird flu in Antarctica

After the current bird flu outbreak reached Antarctica, environmental experts fear mass deaths of seabirds.

Health: Bird flu in Antarctica

After the current bird flu outbreak reached Antarctica, environmental experts fear mass deaths of seabirds. They are now urgently calling for concrete solutions to better protect penguins and other Antarctic inhabitants, at least from the effects of climate change and massive fishing.

The annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, Australia, is currently discussing, among other things, the designation of new marine protected areas (MPAs).

“The fragile Antarctic ecosystem is already suffering greatly from the consequences of the climate crisis, massive krill fishing and increasing tourism numbers,” said Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Federal Managing Director of German Environmental Aid (DUH). It is therefore all the more important that CCAMLR quickly agree on protective measures in view of the impending mass death caused by the highly pathogenic bird flu.

“The remote area of ​​the Antarctic continent and the Southern Ocean consists of very sensitive ecosystems,” said Claire Christian, Managing Director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), to the German Press Agency. Because of the increasing threats facing wildlife there, refuges for Antarctic species are more important than ever. "We also expect everyone working in Antarctica - scientists, support staff, tourists and fishing operators - to do everything in their power to stop the spread of this terrible virus," Christian said.

Pathogen detected on Bird Island

Until now, Antarctica, along with Australia and Oceania, was considered the last region on earth to be spared from the current bird flu outbreak. The polar research organization British Antarctic Survey (BAS) announced this week that the pathogen has now been detected in birds on the small island of Bird Island in the Southern Ocean.

In Hobart, the governments responsible for protecting Antarctic marine fauna and flora have been negotiating the designation of three marine protected areas in East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea and the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula since mid-October. Because of resistance from Russia and China, a breakthrough has always failed - most recently in June at a special CCAMLR meeting on the topic in Santiago de Chile.

Stricter requirements for krill fishing are also on the agenda. The tiny crustaceans are caught en masse to make oil and fish feed - but they are extremely important for the Antarctic ecosystem. The conference lasts until Friday.

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