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The President of the Government of Spain inaugurates the event marking the 30th anniversary of the 'Madrid Protocol'

Pedro Sánchez stresses urgency in combating the impact of climate change and other human activities in Antarctica

Archaeological Museum, Madrid, Monday 4 October 2021

'Antarctica: present and future' aims to analyse the land and marine environmental challenges it faces and to mobilise the international community to reach an agreement to expand marine protected areas in Antarctica.

The President of the Government of Spain said: "One of the most serious threats facing the Antarctic is climate change, which poses a real danger to the long-term survival of Antarctic marine communities".

The 'Madrid Protocol', signed in 1991, established a comprehensive protection framework for the Antarctic environment and indefinitely prohibited all mineral resource activities, except for scientific research. The document stresses the importance of further developing multidisciplinary scientific cooperation initiatives and the protection of marine areas.

Sánchez pointed out that the 'Madrid Protocol' "demonstrates the value of international law as an effective tool for managing common goods", since, as he stressed, "Antarctic governance is based on mutual trust and responsibility, as there is no central authority that sets the rules".

Sánchez stressed that science "must inspire the education of our societies for a better future". In this regard, the President called for work to "ensure that Antarctica remains a free and cooperative space for the development of scientific projects, within a framework of mutual trust and international cooperation".

Spain's involvement in Antarctica took the form of two scientific research bases: the Juan Carlos I, inaugurated in 1988 and coordinated by the CSIC, and the Gabriel de Castilla, which began operating a year later and is managed by the Spanish Armed Forces. Since then, Spanish researchers and technicians have been carrying out scientific projects on climate change, pollution, penguins and volcanology, uninterruptedly during the austral summer.

The President stressed the great biodiversity of the Southern Ocean and the importance of its protection because "it is a real reservoir of species". An example of the importance of a well-functioning marine ecosystem is the krill, a small shrimp whose survival depends on the ocean's temperature not rising, which is essential for the food of many species of whales, penguins and fish.

Spain, a country committed to protecting Antarctica

Foto: Pool Moncloa/Fernando CalvoThe classification of an area as a Marine Protected Area makes it a restricted area for fishing, which aims to preserve marine species, biodiversity, habitat, feeding and breeding grounds, among others. There are two in Antarctica: the South Orkney Islands and the Ross Sea. Spain and the rest of the EU Member States support the proposals to create three new Marine Protected Areas: the East Antarctic, the Weddell Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula.

During the event organised at the National Archaeological Museum, President Sánchez received a citizens' petition of support, backed by more than 1.5 million signatures, supporting the creation of these three new marine protected areas.

"We must continue to work together for an Antarctica for peace and for science, as this will provide benefits for all of us and a more sustainable and resilient future for our societies and for our planet," concluded the President of the Government of Spain.

Non official translation