No deal on huge Antarctic marine reserves
- 16 July 2013
- From the section Science & Environment
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.
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.
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.