Russia accused of blocking Antarctic marine reserves

The Guardian reports, 31st October 2014: “Russia has been accused of blocking the creation of the world’s largest marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean, with frustrated negotiators blaming diplomatic tensions over the war in Ukraine and the downing over Ukraine of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

Delegates to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting in Hobart said Russia’s obstructionist position on conservation in the Antarctic took a sharp negative turn at this year’s conference. “Everything was nyet,” said one negotiator.

The commission has now failed to come to an agreement on protecting more than 2.5 million sq km of sea off the coast of Antarctica four times in three years. The proposals are based on scientific advice that the protection of Antarctic marine ecosystems from overfishing is a key step in preserving the flagging health of the world’s oceans.

Lyn Goldsworthy, an Antarctic activist and participant at the meeting, said: “Russia came into the meeting telling us that they couldn’t accept any new conservation measures because of broader geopolitics. Global tensions have stopped them from agreeing [to the MPAs].”

Other sources inside the negotiations confirmed to the Guardian that geopolitical tensions likely had some effect. “Russia said they didn’t believe that MPAs were in their interest and they didn’t believe meaningful negotiation was possible,” said one source.

Some delegates expressed privately that they felt the Ukrainian situation was a convenient excuse for Russia to push the negotiations back for another year, thus protecting its pro-fishing agenda.

The MPAs are split over two regions of the Southern Ocean, the Ross Sea and the seas off eastern Antarctica. Russia was particularly opposed to the Ross Sea MPA (put forward by the US and New Zealand), which would contain a 1.25 million sq km no-take zone. The joint Australia-France-EU proposal in the east Antarctic has no mandated no-take zones, but it is intended that these would be embedded after the area is designated.

Russia indicated towards the end of the meeting that it was willing to participate in discussions to progress the east Antarctic MPA at next year’s meeting. A “glimmer of hope,” according to Goldsworthy.

Source: The Guardian, 31st October 2014. For the full text see:

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