Plans for worlds largest ocean sanctuary in Antarctic blocked

05 November 2018 | Mitigation

A plan to create the world's largest marine sanctuary in Antarctic waters was shot down when a key conservation summit failed to reach a consensus, with environmentalists on Saturday decrying a lack of scientific foresight.

Member states of the organisation tasked with overseeing the sustainable exploitation of the Southern Ocean failed at an annual meeting Friday to agree over the a 1.8 million square kilometre (1.1 million square miles) maritime protection zone.

The proposed sanctuary -- some five times the size of Germany -- would ban fishing in a vast area in the Weddell sea, protecting key species including seals, penguins and whales.

Consensus is needed from all 24 members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the European Union. 

But environmental groups say Russia and China -- whose concerns over compliance issues and fishing rights have proved key stumbling blocks in the past -- along with Norway, played a part in rejecting the plan. 

Antarctica is home to penguins, seals, toothfish, whales and huge numbers of krill, a staple food for many species. 

They are considered critical for scientists to study how marine ecosystems function and to understand the impacts of climate change on the ocean.

Plans were set out in 2009 to establish a series of marine protected area (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean allowing marine life to migrate between areas for breeding and foraging, but it has been slow going.

The CCAMLR summit, held in each year in Hobart, Australia, was able in 2016 to establish a massive US and New Zealand-backed MPA around the Ross Sea covering an area roughly the size of Britain, Germany and France combined.

As well as the huge Weddell Sea sanctuary, proposals to estbalish two further MPAs in East Antarctica and the Western Antarctic Peninsula were also dashed this year. Together, the three zones would cover close to three million square kilometres.

The CCAMLR released a statement saying the new MPAs were the "subject of much discussion" and would be considered again at next year's meeting.



Source: Jakarta Post