Antarctic toothfish being observed by a diver. (Photo: Rob Robbins/AOA)
US, NZ, settle quarrel over Ross Sea marine park
Tuesday, October 30, 2012, 02:20 (GMT + 9)
The situation looks more favourable for the planned world's biggest marine park in the Ross Sea, Antarctica, now that the US and New Zealand have resolved a major row on the issue.
The two nations were largely over the issue of New Zealand's harvest of Antarctic toothfish, but have now agreed on a common proposal spanning 2.27 million sqkm that will allow "light" fishing, rather than banning it in one of NZ’s key toothfishing grounds.
This agreement dramatically increases the chances that the Commission for the Conservation of Marine Living Resources (CCMLR) will endorse the marine park, The Australian reports.
The compromise also included a 1.6 million sqkm "no take" zone where fishing would be banned.
There will also be a special scientific zone as an additional layer of protection, The Age reports.
Without a joint proposal, it had been expected that the CCMLR would fail to reach agreement on a marine park for the Ross Sea.
Meanwhile, the future of a joint Australian-French plan for a 1.9 million sqkm-marine park in East Antarctica also remains uncertain.
A final decision is expected this week from all 25 members of the commission.
To succeed, the proposals need to be accepted in consensus by all 25 nations. Observers said persuading China and Russia was particularly tough.
"We now have to get everyone else on board and that process has begun in earnest," US Ocean and Polar Affairs Director Evan Bloom said.
New Zealand negotiator Carolyn Schwalger said the compromise with the US on the Ross Sea marine park would not dent NZ’s toothfish harvest worth NZD 14 million (USD 11.5 million) a year.
"None of the marine park area proposals are about reducing fishing; they are all about moving fishing into areas that will have less of a negative impact on the wider ecosystem," she clarified.
There still appears to be no agreement between the two nations on whether the marine park should include a sunset clause, beyond an agreed 10-year review.
- Marine park negotiations hit impasse
By Natalia Real