Nations Will Discuss Antarctic Ocean Conservation Proposals in Germany
Representatives from 25 countries and the European Union plan to discuss whether to declare a large portion of ocean around Antarctica as a protected area, though the rights to fish in the waters off Antarctica's coast may stall or break the deal.
Two proposals are being discussed. One, submitted by the United States and New Zealand, would focus on protecting the Ross Sea, south of New Zealand; the other, submitted by France, Australia and the European Union, would set aside huge areas of the Southern Ocean around eastern Antarctica.
"The total size of the marine protected area we are proposing is roughly 3 1/2 times the size of Texas," Ambassador Mike Moore, the former prime minister of New Zealand, said, according to NPR.
Meetings between nations are underway at a special session in Germany by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) which
Because the waters off Antarctica's coast are considered international territory, the creation of marine preserves will require international consensus. When CCAMLR meet last fall to discuss the proposals, a consensus could not be reached, as Russia, China and Ukraine were concerned about losing fishing rights in the seas, according to NPR.
The Ross Sea is rich in wildlife; many whales, penguins and seals swim through its waters. Jim Barnes, of the conservation group Antarctic and Southern Ocean coalition, called the Ross Sea one of the few relatively untouched regions left in the world.
Barns expressed dismay after some CCAMLR member countries suggested that the proposed protection in the area come to an end after a number of years. "It's like creating a national park," Barnes said, "and it shouldn't suddenly come to a halt. So that's one of the really contentious issues that remain."
Finding a working solution may prove difficult, as countries are reluctant to give up short-term economic profit for long-term environmental gain.
"It's always difficult for countries to make a decision between short-term profits for industry and long-term benefits for the environment," said Karen Sack of the Pew Charitable Trust.