After months of lobbying by environmental organizations, conservationists, and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ian Somerhalder, a proposed Antarctic Marine Sanctuary has failed to gain international support.
24 nations and the European Union met earlier in Australia this weekend to discuss the sanctuary – which would have protected an area twice the size of India. All are members of the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources – which since 1982 has strived to protect areas of the Antarctic marine ecosystem from overfishing and other detriments.
At the start of the conference, confidence was high that the proposed Marine Sanctuary might actually pass – especially after the United States and New Zealand resolved their dispute over fishing terms in the agreement. Unfortunately, one big weakness of CCAMLR is that it is a body that rules by consensus of all involved; leaving room for a small minority to trump the majority.
This is exactly what happened this year – as China, Russia, and the Ukraine balked at the proposed Sanctuary; which China especially saying such a protections would aversely impact its annual haul of toothfish, which are marketed as Chilean sea bass.
While such an outcome is disappointing, some experts believe it’s only a matter of time before the Ross Sea gains some form of protection.
“It is a great shame that a decision was not reached, it was always going to be a big ask to get all 25 countries with varied fishing interests to agree,” said Prof Bryan C. Storey, Professor of Antarctic Studies and Director Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury. “However, there are many positives to come out of the discussions in that the US and NZ agreed on a combined MPA for the Ross Sea, and that an intercessional meeting will be held in July to advance the proposals. I get the impression that an MPA for the Ross Sea will happen, it is just a matter of time. This will not lead to a total ban on fishing in the Ross Sea but it is a step in the right direction.”
According to the AP, New Zealand’s minister of foreign affairs Murray McCully will be working closely with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to come up with a new plan to get the Sanctuary passed during next July’s meeting.
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