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The Ross Sea, in Antarctica. (Photo Credit: Brocken Inaglory/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Antarctic ecosystem protection hindered by nations’ tensions

WORLDWIDE
Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 04:30 (GMT + 9)

Efforts to protect marine ecosystem Antarctica’s Ross Sea could be hindered by tensions between some Antarctic nations, according to the secretary of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

In the CCAMLR annual meeting to be held this week in Tasmania, its 25 member nations, including Australia, China, Russia, the United States and the European Union (EU) will consider two separate proposals for the creation of protected marine areas.

One of the proposals, from Australia, France and the EU, intends to protect one million square kilometres of East Antarctic waters and will allow commercial fishing and the research if operators consider conservation values, The Australian informed.

The other joint proposal, from the United States and New Zealand, includes the protection of 1.32 million square kilometres in the Ross Sea, an area that would be almost entirely off limits to fishing.

CCAMLR’s executive secretary Andrew Wright pointed out he could not predict how member nations would act over the next fortnight, but added it was unreasonable to expect other multilateral issues would not enter the negotiations.

On the other hand, Director of the Australian Antarctic Division and leader of the Australian delegation to the meeting Tony Fleming rejected the notion Russia or other countries would use tense relations to derail talks.

And Fleming stated that some countries were concerned the initial proposals were too large and too complex.

Therefore, Members of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance urged the CCAMLR to uphold its commitments to conservation and pass both proposals, which it has the legal backing to do.

For their part, environmental groups from all over the world have urged the CCAMLR to approve the reserves.

“We should look back at the Antarctic Treaty, that was signed back in the 1950s, right in the middle of the Cold War and despite the missiles literally being aimed at each others’ capital cities these countries got together and dedicated Antarctica for a zone of peace,” World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Antarctic and Southern Ocean program manager Bob Zuur told The Australian.

"Our view is really that the compromise has already occurred and that those proposals have already come down to what is really a minimum level," claimed Zuur.

“It’s one of the healthiest functioning ecosystems left on the planet,” states Andrea Kavanagh, director of Pew Charitable Trusts Global Penguin Conservation Campaign. “We want to preserve it for that reason, but also because we want to use it as a climate reference area. These areas are vital to scientists studying how ecosystems adapt to climate change.”

Meanwhile, scientists believe the Antarctic is already showing signs of vulnerability to climate change and that fish stocks are dwindling all over the world, pushing fishing fleets farther and farther into new territory to find the few stocks that remain.


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