Australia hopeful for new Antarctic sanctuary proposal
SYDNEY, Australia – Australia said Monday, October 20, it was hopeful of winning support for its plan for a vast marine sanctuary off east Antarctica, after revising its proposal to make it smaller.
Australia, France and the European Union first put forward a bid for a 1.9 million square kilometer (760,000 square mile) Marine Protected Area encompassing seven stretches of the pristine wilderness in 2011, but it was knocked back last year.
Its latest proposal is for a 1.0 million square kilometer zone over four areas, a plan which will be considered at the annual Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) talks in Hobart beginning Monday.
"The reduction in the scale of the East Antarctic proposal reflects concerns from some nations that the area included was too large," said the head of Australia's delegation Tony Fleming.
"However we are confident the new proposal will adequately protect representative areas of biodiversity in the region, including areas that are vulnerable to disturbance and which play an important ecological role, such as toothfish and krill nursery areas, and foraging habitat for marine mammals and penguins."
Last year's CCAMLR talks failed to approve the East Antarctica sanctuary, on the frozen continent's Indian Ocean side, as well as a US-New Zealand bid for a protected zone in the Ross Sea after Russia and China blocked the proposals, baulking at the size.
Fleming, who is also director of the Australian Antarctic Division, said he hoped the changes – which he said also allow for some fishing and research activities as long as conservation values were protected – would see the proposal succeed.
"We are looking forward to working with other nations to reach a good outcome on marine protected areas at this year's meeting," he said.
Australia continues to support the US-New Zealand proposal for a sanctuary on the Ross Sea, the deep bay on Antarctica's Pacific side.
Last year that proposal had been considered the best hope of succeeding after it was reduced, with its no-fish zone to be 1.25 million square kilometers. However, it failed to the win the support of all 25 members of CCAMLR needed to be passed.
Environmentalists have said that without sanctuaries, an ocean wilderness that is home to 16,000 known species, including whales, seals, albatrosses, penguins and unique species of fish, was at stake.
CCAMLR is a treaty tasked with overseeing conservation and sustainable exploitation of the Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean. It brings together 24 countries and the European Union. – Rappler.com