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Conservation by Community: Biosecurity in Antarctica


Dr. Gary Theseira, the director and council member of Climate Governance Malaysia, initiated a discussion on the critical role of community biosecurity in Antarctica, emphasizing its significance in climate regulation. He introduced Ambassador H.E Manuel Jose Balaguer Salas, who underscored Argentina's steadfast commitment to preserving and researching Antarctica. With a rich history in the region, Argentina highlighted its dedication to peace, scientific advancement, and environmental protection, emphasizing active participation in Antarctic governance, collaboration with other nations, and adherence to environmentally responsible practices.

 

Mr. Yusuf Hashim, a seasoned explorer and retired CEO of Shell, shared insights from his global travels, expressing concern about the environmental impact of the oil and gas industry. He advocated for stricter regulations and stressed the urgency of addressing climate change. Mr. Hashim commended responsible tourism operators in Antarctica while condemning detrimental hunting practices threatening polar bear populations. He emphasized the need for collective action to protect wildlife and ecosystems, citing positive initiatives worldwide and advocating for proactive government legislation.


Hannah Lawson, an experienced expedition leader, highlighted the critical importance of education, preservation, and responsible tourism practices in Antarctica. She provided insight into the governance structure established by the Antarctic Treaty, focusing on its principles of peaceful use and scientific research. Ms. Lawson emphasized the ongoing necessity for protective measures beyond 2041 and praised the efforts of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators. With over 100,000 visitors annually, predominantly aboard small expedition cruise ships, she stressed the privilege and responsibility of visiting Antarctica. The discussion covered stringent regulations such as the Polar Code, which prohibits the use of heavy fuel oil and waste disposal in Antarctic waters.

Ms. Lawson emphasized maintaining a minimum distance of five meters from wildlife and adhering to guidelines to minimize human impact, particularly regarding concerns about the spread of bird flu among Antarctic marine mammals.



While there might be potential detriments, tourists in Antarctica can contribute to scientific advancements in Antarctica through citizen science programs, which has contributed to topics i.e. whale populations, phytoplankton changes. Ms Lawson highlighted successful initiatives like the creation of slowdown zones for whale protection based on data from citizen scientists.

 

Danny Edmunds, an expedition leader for multiple cruise lines, reflected on Antarctica's historical significance and vulnerability to global impacts. He advocated for tourism as a means to raise awareness and called for collective action to protect the continent. Laura Mony, a Geologist and glaciologist, joined the conversation, emphasizing Antarctica's global impact on oceanic currents and stressing the importance of mitigating sea level rise. Both speakers underscored the need for global solutions and encouraged tourists to inspire change.

 

During the Q&A session, discussions focused on shifts occurring in Antarctica's ecosystem, emphasizing its interconnected nature and the consequences of melting ice caps. Concerns were raised regarding rising sea levels and the potential impact on tectonic activity due to the rebound effect of melting ice caps. It was noted that while tidal patterns would remain unaffected, oceanic currents, particularly major ones like the conveyor belt or thermohaline current, could experience significant changes. These currents originate in the Arctic and Antarctica, and alterations in water composition due to ice melting could disrupt their flow, potentially altering their patterns. For instance, the Gulf Stream, a prominent current in the Northern hemisphere, could undergo modifications in its path from North America to Europe.


In conclusion, the webinar discussion emphasized the pressing necessity for collective action to confront environmental challenges and preserve Antarctica's delicate ecosystem. It underscored how experiences in Antarctica can profoundly shape environmental awareness and stressed the importance of ongoing endeavors to safeguard this extraordinary continent for generations to come. Dr. Gary expressed appreciation to both the panelists and attendees, acknowledging the discussion's success in highlighting Antarctica's magnificence and its intricate ties to global ecosystems. He credited the contributions of the panelists and the active participation of the audience for fostering awareness and advocacy for Antarctic conservation.


Click here for the recordings.

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