Russia continues to be the spoiler in attempts to create the world's biggest ocean sanctuary in Antarctica, refusing to join other nations in endorsing the sanctuary at a global summit on ocean conservation which ended in Hobart, Australia today.
Even China, which had up to now been an opponent of the sanctuary, came on board at the ten day long meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Russia's input was needed for a deal to manage and conserve the marine ecosystems in the Southern Ocean.The Southern Ocean takes up 10 percent of the Earth’s surface.
Russia blocked proposals put forward by the U.S. and New Zealand that would have protected the icy but fertile Ross Sea during the summit, even when China relented and agreed to the Antarctic sanctuary.
Antarctica is home to 10,000 known species of wildlife, including the majority of the world’s penguins, seabirds, whales, Antarctic toothfish and colossal squid.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully says, “China’s support for a revised MPA is a major step forward in reaching the consensus required to put workable protections in place for the Ross Sea,”
Evan Bloom, the U.S. delegation leader says Russia's ongoing opposition was frustrating. Russia argues that closing off such a large area as the Ross Sea to fishing is unnecessary.
“But there’s also a bit of optimism because now there’s just one country left and we’re closer than we have ever been before.” says Bloom
The official objective of CCAMLR, which was created in 1982, is the conservation of Antarctic marine life “whilst providing for rational use”, taking global food security into account. The European Union and 24 nations are members and another 11 countries have signed its convention.
CCAMLR delegate and director of the pro-conservation Pew Charitable Trusts Andrea Kavanagh says, “The Ross Sea is one of the last intact, fully functioning marine ecosystems on earth. It’s really important to preserve it for its own intrinsic value. It’s also a really important place for scientists to look at how climate change is affecting healthy ecosystems as opposed to unhealthy ecosystems.”