Russia, China block Antarctica conservation plans

Proposals for vast marine preserves fail for the fourth time

Plans to protect the Antarctic environment are still on hold. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Russia and China have once again showed their unwillingness to participate in global efforts to protect the environment in Antarctica by blocking a plan to create new marine reserves off the shore of eastern Antarctica and in the Ross Sea.

Both countries are more interested in exploiting natural resources in the region than in establishing a collaborative framework for sustainable management of the fish and krill. Russia voted for the fourth time to block the proposal for new marine protected areas, while China opposed the plans for the first time.

According to the commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, Russia and China questioned the size of the proposed protected areas, as well as the the process to support research and monitoring within MPAs and the implications for fisheries.

The renewed failure of CCAMLR to reach agreement on protection was a disappointment for conservation groups like the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, which questioned whether the international group can live up to its commitment to protect natural resources around Antarctica.

The organization claimed to make progress in other areas, including catch limits on some fisheries and agreement on a range of research to improve knowledge of toothfish biology and its ecosystem to support the precautionary management of toothfish and krill.

But the fate of the two proposed marine protected areas was on the top of the agenda, One proposal submitted by Australia, the European Union and France and covers an area of 1 million square kilometers in East Antarctica. The other, submitted by New Zealand and the United States, covers 1.3 million square kilometers in the Ross Sea region.

CCAMLR operates on consensus’based decision-making, with agreement needed from all 25 members before a proposal is adopted and implemented.

“A range of views and national interests on complex issues such as MPAs in international waters creates a challenging environment for reaching consensus,” said CCAMLR Executive Secretary Andrew Wright.

Research and collaboration continue around the establishment of other marine protected areas, including the Weddell Sea.



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