Ocean protected areas fight still on after set back


An international environmental organisation has vowed to fight on after a plan to create the world’s largest marine sanctuary failed to get backing at a key conservation summit.
Greenpeace fought a year-long battle to create the biggest protected area on Earth – an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary – and sent a scientific expedition to gather evidence.
But member states of the organisation which oversees the sustainable exploitation of the Southern Ocean failed to agree over the 1.8 million square kilometre (1.1 million square miles) zone.
Greenpeace said: “This isn’t the end – it’s just the beginning. We had 2.7 million people join the campaign for this ocean sanctuary – and we’re going to come back stronger than ever.”
It added: “We have an historic opportunity to do that in just two years. There is a new global ocean treaty on the table at the United Nations.
“If it’s approved it’ll open the door to create huge new protected areas covering at least a third of the world’s oceans.”
Consensus was needed from all 24 members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the European Union meeting last week.
But environmentalists claim Russia, China and Norway stopped it going ahead – even alleging Russian and Chinese delegations used delaying tactics to waste time and hold up talks.
Greenpeace said: “This failure leaves the incredible wildlife of the Antarctic exposed to pressures from overfishing, pollution and climate change.
“It’s their job to look after Antarctic marine life and make sure the continent’s seas – which no single country controls – don’t become a free-for-all of overfishing.
“But because every country has to agree before a new sanctuary can go ahead, it’s easy for a small minority to stop things from progressing.”
The proposed sanctuary would have banned fishing in a wide area in the Weddell Sea, protecting species such as seals, penguins and whales.
In 2009 plans were floated to establish a series of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean and CCAMLR set up one around the Ross Sea in 2016.
But this year plans to set up two further protected areas in East Antarctica and the Western Antarctic Peninsula were also vetoed along with the sanctuary idea.
In a statement CCAMLR said the new protected areas were the “subject of much discussion” and would be considered next year. The CCAMLR meets yearly in Hobart, Australia.

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