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 56.

    thefrogstar - "Educate yourselves, and ignore the politically motivated activists"

    #55 Total Mass Retain - "...anti-environmentalists and climate change deniers .."

    Activists on both sides have both committed crimes against science and truth and general humanity. The anti-nuclear movement have killed something between 5 and 10 million people. (by indirectly promoting fossil fuels)

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Educate yourselves, and ignore the politically motivated activists"

    Are you saying anti-environmentalists and climate change deniers have no political motivation at all and have the purest of motives? Because the evidence shows they're generally a bunch of self-interested, anti-science, right wing nut jobs. What do you think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    One thing is irritating, in the article it says that the loss of krill threatens 'whales, penguins, seals, and sea birds'. These might be the most visible species but they are top predators and somewhat irrelevant. The real problem with taking too many krill is that it might undermine or destabilize entire ocean eco-systems - something far more serious and potentially irreversible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    The expression 'marine reserve' (as in the title) tends to have a specific meaning these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Thinking environmentalists might be dismayed by this, but had better get used to it.

    For half a century the movement has been led by the likes of Greenpeace: going after nuclear power when it actually meant very little to the greater biosphere, and CO2 which is actually beneficial.

    Educate yourselves, and ignore the politically motivated activists, especially those wielding computer models.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Let us not forget the biggest offending nation in all of this is not China or Russia but Japan. Japan has exploited every loophole in the book and is willing to break the law to hunt for fish and whales in the Antarctic. I would not be surprised if Japan pulled some strings to get China and Russia to vote no on this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Sad as it is, I feel this just proves that the "green" stance being forced upon the UK population, while admirable, is absolutely pointless given the fact that much larger countries than ourselves have absolutely no interest in putting the planet first and any initiatives we take do nothing but put the UK population at risk and cost us a fortune.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I think everybody is missing the obvious point on this Antarctic marine reserves.
    There is probably Oil.Gas and Minerals under it so nobody will agree to make it off limits especially countries that are closest

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    @Nevenblue .....your 10

    Some people had the very same idea in 1939.
    It caused a bit of disagreement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face. Putin could & should change his position on this if he really is the strong man he claims to be. In the meanwhile if they wont agree the rest of us should and then isolate them on the issue and show the damage they are doing. Its pretty basic stuff not ruining the place you depend on to survive. They need to get with the programme pronto.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Is it just me or is the grammar in this article hopeless?
    Perhaps at 59yrs of age I have become prematurely doolaly, but every time I read tho word "reserves" I wondered..."Reserves of what? Uranium?, Oil?. Gas? What? Oh here we are, they`re talking about fish.
    Oh wait! No they`re not! What is meant ecological reserve. Like the Serengeti.
    I had to start all over again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I wonder if Russia could ever do something really useful, and, stop being so belligerent. Is it always to be their attitude that nothing moves forward - and we are still to be condemned to living in the same mental-state as our ancestors when they began their first wars on leaving the African continent over 120000 years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Far to many humans on the planet by several orders of magnitude. If we don't as a species curb our excess eventually the damage done to the environment will. That eventually is almost here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Antarctica is the only continent that is uninhabited and pristine and ought to be kept that way. The greed of commercial fisheries is what caused this to fail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Funnily enough I have only a couple of days ago seen the remake of "The day the Earth stood still". John Cleese says to Keanu Reeves in that film, "it's only on the brink that people find the will to change. Only at the precipice do we evolve . . .".

    I get the feeling we're standing at that precipice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    #39 - I think you're forgetting what a pathetic excuse for an environment secretary we have in Owen Paterson.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Such short-termism. It's a shame. And those who blocked this should be ashamed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Let us the UK declare a marine reserve around South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands plus British Antarctic territory its our territorial waters. At least that way some would be protected for marine life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    33 arel

    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.
    Isn't it nature's fault we're here in the first place? Or are we from some other universe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    36 Jaker....sadly russian/chinese politicos are showing thier human side...greedy, generally ignorant and only interested in self....

    what is really needed is a drop in human populations from 7 billion to less than 70 billion...sadly we lost the opportunity when kennedy forced withdrawal from cuba....


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