Will Russia agree to an international marine reserve in the Ross Sea and Antarctica?

The Guardian reports, 17th October 2016: An international agreement to protect some of Antarctica’s unique and pristine marine ecosystems could be reached within a fortnight, with scientists and conservationists hopeful of a breakthrough after five years of failed negotiations.

Delegates from 24 nations and the European Union gathered in Hobart on Monday to commence two weeks of talks at the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

The Commission has been working since 2011 towards protecting a range of areas in the Southern Ocean.

Antarctica is home to most of the world’s penguins and whales. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which has been meeting annually since 2011, commenced two weeks of talks on Monday 17th October to discuss creating marine reserves in the Antarctic. Photograph: Reuters

Antarctica is home to most of the world’s penguins and whales. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which has been meeting annually since 2011, commenced two weeks of talks on Monday 17th October to discuss creating marine reserves in the Antarctic. Photograph: Reuters

If an agreement is reached, it would represent the first time a marine protected area was established in international waters by consensus. Russia has consistently blocked the agreement, with China also scuppering the deal each year until 2015.

This year there are signs Russia, which is chairing the meeting for the second year in a row, is prepared to make a deal to protect the Ross Sea and possibly East Antarctica.

“There has been a lot of movement within Russia for more environmental awareness — coming from high up in the Putin government,” said Andrea Kavanagh, director of Antarctic and Southern Ocean work at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

In the past year, Russian president Vladimir Putin’s former chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, has been appointed special presidential representative for environmental protection, ecology and transport, and Ivanov has increased protection to waters around the Arctic.

In January Putin declared 2017 the Year of Ecology in Russia. In September, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said he had been in discussions with Putin, and revealed Russia had conducted an “interagency assessment” of the Antarctic proposals.

“I don’t know what the results of that assessment will be, but we obviously all remain hopeful that Russia will step up and join us in this endeavour,” Kerry said.

Scientists have estimated the Southern Ocean produces about three quarters of the nutrients that sustain life in the rest of the world’s oceans. The region is also home to most of the world’s penguins and whales.

Source: The Guardian, 17th October 2016. For the full details, see www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/17/antarctic-marine-reserves-deal-within-reach-as-russia-thaws-environmental-stance

 


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