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An area in the Antarctic. (Photo Credit: Andrew Mandemaker CC BY-SA 2.5)

Antarctic marine reserve plan blocked again

Click on the flag for more information about Australia AUSTRALIA
Monday, November 04, 2013, 04:00 (GMT + 9)

The partners of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) said that the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has missed a historic opportunity due to blocking by Russia and Ukraine again to protect key Antarctic marine habitats at its annual meeting in Hobart, questioning its ability to deliver on its conservation commitments.

The 24 nations and the EU that make up CCAMLR had two proposals for the Ross Sea and East Antarctic coastal region on the table but, like the body’s special meeting in Germany in July, Russia and Ukraine actively blocked the two proposals on Friday, with China withdrawing support for the East Antarctic proposal.

“Sadly, although most CCAMLR Members were ready to move forward to designate significant marine protection here, Russia and Ukraine once again blocked all efforts to negotiate an outcome,” said Jim Barnes, Executive Director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC). “We applaud the hard work of the United States, New Zealand, Australia, the European Union and France over the last three years to promote solid Antarctic marine protected proposals in Antarctica.”

“The question of whether CCAMLR can deliver on its conservation mandate is in very serious doubt after another disappointing failure at this year’s meeting,” said Steve Campbell, AOA Campaign Director. “CCAMLR does not meet again for another year, and each meeting without designating marine protection diminishes hopes that CCAMLR can meet its important commitments.”

"This is a dark day not just for the Antarctic, but for the world's oceans,” said Andrea Kavanagh, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Southern Ocean sanctuaries project. “This was the international community’s third attempt to protect some of the most pristine ocean areas on Earth, but self interest got in the way once again. The scientific basis to create these reserves is overwhelming. The stubborn self interest of a few should not be allowed to deny the will of the majority of countries around the world.”

The two marine protection area (MPA) proposals that CCAMLR failed to pass on Friday were a US and New Zealand proposal for a Ross Sea MPA of 1.32 million km2 with a 1.25 million km2 area no-take zone, and a proposal from Australia, France and the EU for an East Antarctic MPA network of 1.6 million km2 in which future fishing activities would have to be approved by consensus.

The Southern Ocean is home to more than 10,000 unique species including most of the world’s penguins, whales, seabirds, colossal squid and the remarkable Antarctic toothfish – the main target of fishing companies in the region. The Southern Ocean is a crucial area for scientific research, both for studying how intact marine ecosystems function and for determining the impacts of global climate change.

More than 1.3 million people around the world have joined the global call for large-scale marine protection in Antarctica over the last three years and thousands have taken action through on line petitions, social media and e-mail’s to key world leaders to call for protection.

The Antarctic Ocean Alliance partners say they will continue to press the countries failing to support Southern Ocean marine protected areas and will attend the next CCAMLR meeting in Hobart in 2014 to ensure that CCAMLR delivers on its conservation commitments. The AOA has identified around 40 per cent of the Southern Ocean that warrants protection.

Related article:

- A final decision about to be taken on two huge Antartic marine sanctuaries


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