Russia, Ukraine and China are being blamed for a failure of plans to protect almost 3 million square kilometers of ocean in Antarctica. After two weeks of discussions behind closed doors, the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has failed to come to an agreement on new marine reserves.
More than 200 marine scientists have spent more than a week in Hobart, Australia thrashing out the details of the two proposals, which would see commercial fishing banned. The secretive talks between the 24 countries wound up on Friday afternoon.
Director of the Australian Antarctic Division Tony Fleming tried to convince CCAMLR members to create new marine reserves in East Antarctica and the Ross Sea. Dr. Fleming will not say exactly which countries knocked the proposed reserves on the head. But other delegates, including Bo Fernholm from Sweden, say it was Russia and China that stopped the Marine Protected Areas.
It's very frustrating for most members, he said. I think most members were here and thought that we would be able to get the MPAs, at least one this time.
But disappointed Australians vow to try again. The proposed marine reserves that have been knocked back would have been the biggest in the world.
Australia, the European Union and France want to protect 1.3 million square kilometers of ocean in East Antarctica.
Dr Fleming says Australia will keep trying to convince CCAMLR to protect the area. We'll be back next year to talk about this proposal again, and because of the indications of support at this year's meeting we expect to achieve consensus at next year's meeting.
Another proposal was put forward by New Zealand and the United States and would have protected 1.6 million square kilometers of the Ross Sea.
For the past two weeks it seemed the proposal would be approved until Russia decided it did not want to proceed last night.
Environmental groups from around the world travelled to the meeting in the hope that CCAMLR would create the new reserves.
It is the third time CCAMLR has knocked back the reserves. Andrea Kavanagh from the Pew Charitable Trust in Washington DC says conservation is taking a back seat to fishing campaign to turn a huge part of the ocean above Antarctica into a marine reserve will continue despite a third attempt failing.
The Ross Sea proposal from New Zealand and the United States needed support from 24 member countries and the European Union, at the meeting in Hobart of the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
But Russia, the Ukraine and China again blocked the efforts, forcing the other countries to go back to the drawing board.
Apparently the three question the legal status of the reserve, and are also worried that their access to valuable fishing stocks would be limited unduly by the new protected areas.
New Zealand head negotiator Carolyn Schwalger says progress had been made since the last meeting in Germany as legal and procedural issues gave way to more substantive talks.
The government has said very clearly we're committed to this initiative, it's too important, she told reporters in Hobart. I'll have a discussion with the minister when we get home but I'm sure we're committed to the prize.