New Zealand in prime position to protect Antarctic waters
Environmental groups responding to a report today (1) that the Antarctic is under serious threat from fishing and mineral exploration say the New Zealand Government is in prime position to champion new protection measures for the region.
In October this year 25 countries, including New Zealand, will meet to discuss creating a network of marine reserves in the Antarctic (2). As a first step, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA), a coalition of leading environmental and conservation organisations, including Greenpeace, is urging comprehensive protection of the Ross Sea region (3).
Antarctic waters are home to almost 10,000 unique and diverse species, many of which cannot be found anywhere else on the planet (4). Due to minimal human intrusion the Ross Sea has been referred to as ‘the last ocean’.
“As the most pristine marine ecosystem remaining on Earth it is vital to ensure the Ross Sea is protected for generations to come and for the good of all nations,” says Greenpeace New Zealand campaigner Steve Abel.
“New Zealand’s current proposal for the Ross Sea favours our fishing interests rather than protecting critical biodiversity hotspots.”
Before today’s report scientists were already warning that commercial fishing for Antarctic toothfish, started by New Zealand in 1996, was threatening the Ross Sea ecosystem. (5)
“As New Zealand played a leading role in the protection of the lands of Antarctica it must continue that legacy and be a leader in creating measures to protect her surrounding ocean.”
More than 58,000 people have joined the AOA online ‘watch’ by sending messages of support for a network of Antarctic marine reserves. Over the last 10 days more than 10,000 New Zealanders have sent emails to the Minister of Trade and Foreign Affairs Murray McCully urging the New Zealand Government to support the AOA proposal for wide protection of the Ross Sea region.