No deal on huge Antarctic marine reserves

Adelie penguins The proposed protected zone in the Ross Sea is home to a large proportion of the world's Adelie penguins

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International talks on establishing huge marine reserves in Antarctica have failed to reach a consensus.

Russia blocked attempts by western countries to set up the protected areas in the Ross Sea and Eastern Antarctica.

The Russian representative challenged the legal basis that would allow for the creation of such reserves, according to organisations at the talks in Germany.

The proposal was previously scuppered when governments met in 2012.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is made up of countries with an interest in the Southern Ocean, and includes Australia, the US, the UK, China and Russia among its members. Any decisions taken require consensus among all parties.

This meeting in Bremerhaven has been called to deal specifically with proposals for the establishment of reserves that would ban fishing and protect species including seals and penguins. If successful the plans would more than double the area of the world's oceans that are protected.

Parties met in Hobart, Australia, last October, but failed to reach a deal because of opposition by China and Russia, supported by Ukraine, which said restrictions on fishing were too onerous.

Antarctic krill There has been rapid growth in fishing for Antarctic krill driven by demand for Omega-3 oil supplements

As a result, they agreed to an exceptional meeting this July. It was only the second time that the CCAMLR has met outside its annual gathering.

The fate of the proposed marine sanctuaries now lies in the next annual meeting of CCAMLR in Hobart, which runs from 23 October-1 November.

Andrea Kavanagh, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts' Southern Ocean sanctuaries project, said: "The actions of the Russian delegation have put international cooperation and goodwill at risk, the two key ingredients needed for global marine conservation.

"That we missed a critical opportunity to protect some of the most pristine ocean areas on Earth is a loss for the ecosystem and the international community. We urge world leaders to appeal to Russia to work with other countries, and it is imperative that countries send their delegates back to the table in three months to find consensus to protect Antarctic waters."

The US and New Zealand were again backing a proposal to create a marine protected zone in the Ross Sea with a total area of 2.3 million sq km, making it the biggest in the world.

Icebergs in Antarctica
  • CCAMLR has established just one Marine Protected Area in the Antarctic so far.
  • They have designated 11 priority areas in the Southern Ocean from which most MPAs will be created.
  • Governments have set a goal of extending protected areas to ten percent of the world's oceans

Another proposal from Australia, France and the European Union would have created protected areas in East Antarctica covering around 1.63 million sq km.

The Antarctic Ocean Alliance, which is also campaigning for the reserves, described the failure to reach a deal as "the loss of an extraordinary opportunity".

"After two years of preparation, including this meeting, which Russia requested to settle the scientific case for the Ross Sea and East Antarctic proposals, we leave with nothing," said Steve Campbell, Director of the AOA.

Fishing has been a major sticking point in the talks, with species like krill and patagonian toothfish proving highly lucrative for boats from a range of countries, including South Korea, Norway and Japan.

The tiny shrimp like Antarctic krill are a key element of the ecosystem, as they are part of the diet of whales, penguins, seals and sea birds.

However demand for krill has risen sharply in recent years thanks to growing interest in Omega-3 dietary supplements.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Russia & Chinese Politicos ?

    When they don't care about theirs or other countries citizens; how/why would they care about the preserving of mere natural habitat & conservation?

    For that would be showing their human side!

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Life isn't evenly distributed across the Antarctic otherwise why not make the whole area one huge reserve?

    It'd be interesting to see if the proposed reserves eat equally into each of the national territories and associated marine reserves.

    Much of the lack of progress a la global warming's to do with Western manoevering to prune back the 3rd World but not itself.

    Is that what's goin' on here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    A fat lot of difference climbing the Shard made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Humans are so arrogant, it's always about us!

    One day, like a wiper blade on a wet windscreen nature will sweep us away. The irritant nullified, earth, the solar system the cosmos will continue on it's merry way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Aren't China and Russia a pain in the backside?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I'm fortunate enough to have been to Antarctica and to have seen the breathtaking beauty and untouched environment that it is.

    I agree 100% that NO country should be allowed to claim anything in the region, and that all activity should be limited to small scale scientific and other activities which promote (filming etc) and do not destroy it. Haven't we destroyed enough of earth already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    27.Hugo Grotius
    31 Minutes ago
    Don't worry, the planet will take it's revenge when it has to and the human race will suffer for it.


    That would be Gaia making the necessary corrections.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    It is sad to see that the world is divided by so-called national interests. Yes, diversity and locality are important. But, the ultimate fact is we are one. Why can't see see a bigger picture and leave our differences aside? Probably the debate will come back to the fundamental question of individualism vs collectivism. The current hyper-individualism is not taking us in the right direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Where does this absurd notion come from that governments can dictate the status of land that isn't specifically used by those governments? Antarctica is no-mans land - Only small bits of it are actually used by governments for scientific operations. They have NO right to just point at land and say "we're claiming this and turning it into a reserve". It's not right. It's incredibly unjust.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Don't worry, the planet will take it's revenge when it has to and the human race will suffer for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.


  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Why not just continue to trash the whole planet? We're half way there already and with its total destruction we can wipe ourselves out in the process. That way, whatever is left can start all over, free of humans. Our extinction is the best that this planet can hope for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Reservations regarding reserves arise as priorities turn to making a killing on krilling: Sieving the Seven Seas to supply the snake-oiliest Omega-3 dietary supplements money can buy – A very limited time offer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Coming soon- mining Antarctica for "rare earths". And gold/platinum. Watch and see- much of Antarctica is NOT under ice- and it's an entire continent- never mined. Oil, gas, coal, gold, silver- all waiting on the surface. The agreements not to exploit- are due to expire; just as it becomes economically feasible to dig. Exactly who will stop Japan, when they build a mine? Or Russia? Or- ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    We still don't get it, do we. Despite all the evidence we still think that we can be as irresponsible as we like without any consequences. I suggest that we all start identifying people, by name, who vote against treaties and policies like these. Whether it Kyoto, Rio, the work of the IPCC, I want to be able to tell my grandchildren just who had a chance to do something...but didn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    We can't just blame the Russians our own (bought off by industry) government has blocked our own Marine Protected Areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The prospect of large oil reserves have blocked this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    @Swerdna (15)... the trouble is that though it may be money for the few, it is not wealth even for the few. Greater wealth is had for all by protecting the oceans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Make the reserves legal without Russia and then sort out the legalities later. In my lifetime I have seen our oceans raped to in some places DEATH. I have sailed around the world for 20+ YEARS, seen the destruction first hand, how many political buffoons voting in this matter have even been on the ocean anywhere? Look at the Russian/pseudo Japanese fleets and see who is causing most of the damage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    16 l33t_sh1tz0r

    One HALF the world's oceans should be protected... that would at least give the animals a statistical possibility of being able to flourish again, if ever... =/
    But which half? I suggest the bottom half.


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