A group of eleven civil society organizations in our country recently asked the government for its prompt intervention to create at least five new marine protected areas in open waters, under the slogan "Time for the sea has arrived: National Marine Parks".
36% of the Argentine territory is occupied by the sea. However, only about 3% are protected. Argentina has 61 coastal-marine protected areas, of which only one is strictly marine, Namuncurá - Banco Burdwood, located in national waters.
Marine protected areas ("National Marine Parks" and other legal figures) are important tools for long-term sustainable management of the sea. There are different types of marine protected areas; in some, uses such as fishing with low environmental impact are allowed and in others only scientific research is carried out.It is important that some sectors have strict protection, without extractive uses, to provide refuge areas for living species and reference points for the management of the rest of the sea. In other countries, evidence has been found that more stringent protected areas contribute to the restoration of fisheries.
The United Nations recognizes the importance of member countries redoubling their efforts to protect the sea by convening the Ocean Conference in New York, between June 5 and 9. In this sense, it is auspicious that two agencies of the national government such as the Ministry of the Environment and the Administration of National Parks have organized on May 23 last an intersectoral meeting called "National Consultation of Oceans and National System of Marine Protected Areas" with the UNDP support. The meeting had the objective of agreeing on an active position of our country in the aforementioned international conference.
The current administration has declared that one of the 100 objectives of the government is to promote the development of new National Parks and nature reserves. In his speech to Congress this year, President Macri went further and pledged to "... double the area of protected natural areas." Increasing the number, surface area, and effectiveness of marine protected areas in national waters can be key to fulfilling that laudable presidential promise. If it is achieved, it will increase the international prestige and regional leadership of our country in environmental protection.
Previous governments have made some important progress, but greater speed and determination are required to mitigate the damage that unsustainable practices and illegal fishing by foreign vessels are doing to our sea. Argentina is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity and in turn adheres to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, thus committing to protect at least 10% of the marine surface by 2020. In addition, in December 2014 it was passed Law 27,037 that establishes the National System of Marine Protected Areas. This Law is still waiting for its regulation to be fulfilled, including the appointment of a suitable authority. In 2016, the Ministry of the Environment began the process to regulate it, with the formal participation of the National Parks Administration. The corresponding Decree has not yet been signed.