Efforts to create Antarctic marine sanctuary fail - for eighth year

An iceberg pictured in the western Antarctic peninsula in a photo taken on March 4, 2016.
An iceberg pictured in the western Antarctic peninsula in a photo taken on March 4, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY • A multinational effort to create giant marine sanctuaries around Antarctica to counter climate change and protect fragile ocean ecosystems has failed for an eighth straight year, officials said yesterday.

Opposition from China and Russia torpedoed the proposal at the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, a consortium of 25 nations plus the European Union, according to sources familiar with the closed-door discussions.

Beijing and Moscow have been key in blocking the scheme since it was first floated by Australia, France and the EU in 2010 before being scaled down in 2017 in an attempt to win greater support.

The meeting in Hobart on Friday considered proposals to create conservation parks in three key areas off Antarctica, covering a total of some three million sq km.

The areas are home to penguins, seals, toothfish, whales and huge numbers of krill - a staple food for many species.

The series of proposed marine protected areas would protect that marine life and crucially allow migration between areas for breeding and foraging.

A statement from the consortium said proposals for the three marine parks had been "the subject of much discussion" but failed to gain the required consensus of all members and would be considered again at next year's meeting.

Sources in touch with delegates at the week-long talks said China and Russia opposed the parks' creation due to concerns over compliance issues and fishing rights.

Backers of the proposal had hoped that new data highlighting the negative impact of climate change on the region's fragile ecosystem would have finally convinced doubters to back the marine parks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 03, 2019, with the headline 'Efforts to create Antarctic marine sanctuary fail - for eighth year'. Print Edition | Subscribe