Nations fail to agree plan to protect seas around Antarctica

SYDNEY Thu Nov 1, 2012 8:14am EDT

A free-swimming robot submarine, manoeuvres beneath sea ice in Eastern Antarctica in this undated handout picture made available on October 11, 2012. REUTERS/Australian Antarctic Division/Handout

A free-swimming robot submarine, manoeuvres beneath sea ice in Eastern Antarctica in this undated handout picture made available on October 11, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Australian Antarctic Division/Handout

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Major nations failed to reach agreement on Thursday to set up huge marine protected areas off Antarctica under a plan to step up conservation of creatures such as whales and penguins around the frozen continent.

The 25-member Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) agreed, however, to hold a special session in Germany in July 2013 to try to break the deadlock after the October 8-November 1 meeting in Hobart, Australia.

Environmentalists criticized the failure to agree new marine protected areas in the Ross Sea and off East Antarctica, home to penguins, seals, whales and seabirds as well as valuable stocks of shrimp-like krill.

"We're deeply disappointed," Steve Campbell of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, grouping conservation organizations, told Reuters at the end of the CCAMLR annual meeting. He said that most resistance had come from Ukraine, Russia and China.

Environmentalists said that the United States, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand were among countries pushing for agreement on new protected zones.

Some fishing fleets are looking south because stocks nearer home are depleted and some nations worry about shutting off large areas of the oceans. CCMALR comprises 24 member states and the European Union.

"This year, CCAMLR has behaved like a fisheries organization instead of an organization dedicated to conservation of Antarctic waters," said Farah Obaidullah of Greenpeace.

Among proposals, a U.S.-New Zealand plan would have created a 1.6 million sq km (0.6 million sq miles) protected area in the Ross Sea - about the size of Iran.

And the EU, Australia and France proposed a series of reserves of 1.9 million sq km (0.7 million sq miles) off East Antarctica - bigger than Alaska.

Last week, Hollywood actor Leonardo di Caprio launched a petition to protect the seas around Antarctica with campaigning group Avaaz, saying "the whales and penguins can't speak for themselves, so it's up to us to defend them."

Governments in 2010 set a goal of extending protected areas to 10 percent of the world's oceans to safeguard marine life from over-fishing and other threats such as pollution and climate change. By 2010, the total was 4 percent.

CCAMLR said in a statement that members had identified several regions of the Southern Ocean that warrant high levels of protection.

"These important areas can provide a reference for scientific research on the impacts of activities such as fishing, as well as significant opportunities for monitoring the impacts of climate change in the Southern Ocean," it said.

(Writing by Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent in Oslo; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (3)
gregbrew56 wrote:
Money talks, and Big Oil wants to set up shop for exploration and extraction. This will get nowhere.

Nov 03, 2012 6:18pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Free_Pacific wrote:
“He said that most resistance had come from Ukraine, Russia and China.”

Hardly surprising that a group of northern hemisphere countries like these three, want to exploit our resources down under. And look at China, not content to steal from just the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan. It wants Arctic rights and now also to suck the life from the southern oceans around and on Antartica.

Russia and China should have no voice on the UN or in any regional discussions involving the Antartic. They have no concept of responsibility. Only greed. The US, NZ, Australia and countries like Argentina, Chile and other southern nations, should work together and impose a military quarantine and control system down here. If that fails, then it’s time for the Antartic treaty to be dismissed and the claimants work it out amoung themselves. We don’t need Chinese and Russian troubles imported from the north.

Nov 03, 2012 8:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Harry079 wrote:
No Happy Feet here!

Nov 03, 2012 10:46pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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