New Antarctic marine reserve vetoed by Russia

The Guardian reports, 16th July 2013: “Russia has blocked the creation of the world’s largest ocean reserves off the coast of Antarctica, in what campaigners called a “bad faith stalling tactic”.

The Russian delegation to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), whose 25 members have been meeting in Germany, questioned the organisation’s legal mandate to create two huge Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) off the coastline of Antarctica. If adopted, the proposals would more than double the current area of protected ocean on the planet.

Adelie and emperor penguins, Bay of Whales, Ross Sea, Antarctica

Antarctic marine sanctuaries : Adelie and emperor penguins, Bay of Whales, Ross Sea, Antarctica

Delegates to the meeting said that, while a Russian delaying tactic had been expected, the legal argument was “completely wrong”. Steve Campbell, campaign director of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA), said there was both procedure and precedent for the proposals: “It’s a very odd objection, because CCAMLR clearly has the legal authority to establish MPAs”. Campbell said that Russia had previously agreed to the adoption of a measure establishing the commission’s procedure for the designation of such reserves. “But not only does it have the procedure,” said Campbell. “CCAMLR has already designated a large-scale MPA in the South Orkney Islands in 2009.”

The commission requires unanimous agreement from all of its 25 member states to create reserves. The proposals, initially put forward by the US, New Zealand, France, Australia and the EU, would create non-fishing zones covering 3.2m sqkm of ocean in the Ross Sea and off the East Antarctic coastline. Many countries have Patagonian toothfish and krill fisheries in the region. The proposals will be considered again at the annual meeting of the commission in Hobart, Australia in November. But a senior delegate said the move had cast doubt over the commission’s ability to create marine reserves.

Source: The Guardian, 16th July 2013, for the full text see

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