No go for Antarctic sanctuary project

PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A lone penguin perches on floating ice in the Antarctic.

Plans to create a vast marine sanctuary in Antarctica's "Last Ocean" inched closer to becoming a reality at international talks yesterday after China agreed to back the proposal, officials said.

The "Last Ocean" refers to the Ross Sea and is so called because it is believed to be the last swathe of waters that remains free from pollution, invasive species, mining and overfishing.

However, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources ended a 10-day meeting in Hobart, Australia, yesterday without the consensus needed for a deal to conserve and manage the marine ecosystems in the Antarctic Ocean.

This is because Russia, for the fifth time, thwarted the conservation project, remaining the final country to oppose the plan. The latest proposal includes a new research zone for krill and allows fishing for the tiny creatures that form the basis of the Antarctic food chain in other areas of the expanded 1.5 million sq km protected zone.

The European Union and 24 nations are members of the commission and a further 11 countries have signed its convention.

Antarctica is home to more than 10,000 species, including most of the world's penguins, whales, seabirds and colossal squid.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2015, with the headline 'No go for Antarctic sanctuary project'. Print Edition | Subscribe