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Australia, N.Z. vow to press on with Antarctic plans
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) July 17, 2013


Kerry vows to fight on for Antarctic marine haven
Washington (AFP) July 17, 2013 - US Secretary of State John Kerry vowed Wednesday to keep up the battle to set up a sanctuary to protect the unique marine ecosystem in parts of the Antarctic.

And he voiced "regret" that attempts to create the world's largest ocean sanctuary in the Ross Sea were blocked, with environmental groups accusing Russia of raising objections to the move.

"There's simply no comprehensive effort to protect Earth's most critical resource that doesn't include an equally comprehensive effort to create marine protected areas," Kerry, who is on a visit to Jordan, said in a statement.

"The Ross Sea is a natural laboratory. Its ecosystem is as diverse as it is productive, and we have a responsibility to protect it as environmental stewards-just as we do the rest of the ocean."

Three days of talks in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, had gathered 24 nations plus the European Union (EU) in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a 31-year-old treaty tasked with overseeing conservation and sustainable exploitation of the Southern Ocean.

One proposal for a marine sanctuary, floated by the United States and New Zealand, covered 1.6 million square kilometers (640,000 square miles) of the Ross Sea, the deep bay on Antarctica's Pacific side.

The other backed by Australia, France and the EU, would protect 1.9 million square kilometers of coastal seas off East Antarctica, on the frozen continent's Indian Ocean side.

But representatives at the talks said Russia questioned the meeting's legal right to create such sanctuaries.

The waters around Antarctica are home to some 16,000 known species, including whales, seals, albatrosses and penguins, as well as unique species of fish, sponges and worms that are bioluminescent or produce their own natural anti-freeze to survive in the region's chilly waters.

Kerry said "a tremendous amount of work has gone into developing the science that underpins our joint proposal."

"To leverage action, we'll be doubling down on sharing the findings of our scientists who spend those critical months in the dead of winter at McMurdo Station researching and understanding the realties that face all of us."

Although "the road has been harder than we hoped," the top US diplomat said he was pleased so many countries had been able to find common ground and "were willing to work together towards this crucial objective."

"We didn't agree on all of the specifics, but there's an emerging consensus that the Antarctic region requires protection," he added. The next CCAMLR meeting is in Hobart, Australia, from October 23.

Australia and New Zealand Wednesday said they were deeply disappointed with Russia blocking a plan to create the world's largest ocean sanctuary off Antarctica, but vowed to push ahead.

Russia on Tuesday questioned the legal right of a meeting in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, to declare such a haven, according to organisations at the talks. Most other nations supported the proposals.

The three-day talks gathered 24 nations plus the European Union in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a 31-year-old treaty tasked with overseeing conservation and sustainable exploitation of the Southern Ocean.

One proposal, floated by the United States and New Zealand, covered 1.6 million square kilometres (640,000 square miles) of the Ross Sea, the deep bay on Antarctica's Pacific side.

The other, backed by Australia, France and the EU, would protect 1.9 million square kilometres of coastal seas off East Antarctica, on the frozen continent's Indian Ocean side.

Tony Fleming, director of the Australian Antarctic Division and the nation's top delegate in Germany, admitted it was a setback but vowed to keep pushing for the sanctuaries.

"Between now and the next CCAMLR meeting we will continue to work hard with all CCAMLR nations to progress the East Antarctic proposal, and address any outstanding concerns in order to reach agreement," he said in a statement.

"Australia remains optimistic. We received many positive and constructive comments on the proposal that has been developed on the basis of the best available science."

The next CCAMLR meeting is in Hobart, Australia, from October 23.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully expressed "deep disappointment" at the talks' failure but said the Ross Sea proposal would not be abandoned.

"This debate will not simply go away," he said.

"International pressure for responsible leadership will intensify and New Zealand has every intention of playing its full part in ultimately achieving the right outcome."

Protecting the areas -- which biologists say are rich in unique species -- would more than double the area of the world's oceans declared sanctuaries.

While Russia believes the restrictions on fishing are too onerous, conservationists argue the proposals do not go far enough to protect marine life.

The waters around the Antarctica are home to some 16,000 known species, including whales, seals, albatrosses and penguins, as well as unique species of fish, sponges and worms that are bioluminescent or produce their own natural anti-freeze to survive in the region's chilly waters.

The Antarctic Ocean Alliance, a coalition of 30 leading environmental groups including Greenpeace and WWF, said everyone at the meeting came to negotiate in good faith, "except Russia".

"The Russian delegation must now work in good faith and make sure the proposals go forward at the next CCAMLR meeting to ensure a lasting legacy for future generations," said Richard Page, Greenpeace Oceans campaigner.

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Russia blocks bid for Antarctic sanctuary: NGOs
Paris, France (AFP) July 16, 2013
Russia on Tuesday blocked attempts by Western countries to create the world's largest ocean sanctuary off Antarctica, green groups said. The Russian representative questioned the legal right of a meeting in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, to declare such a haven, according to organisations at the talks. The three-day talks gathered 24 nations plus the European Union (EU) in the Commission ... read more


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