High level NZ and US meetings leave fate of Antarctica’s Ross Sea hanging in the balance
Meetings in the United States between high level New Zealand and US government officials last week to hammer out a unified proposal for protecting Antarctica’s Ross Sea mean that the fate of the region, one of the most intact marine ecosystems in the world, hangs in the balance.
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) understands that four days of meetings took place in Washington where officials attempted to agree on a combined Ross Sea proposal to submit to the body that regulates Antarctica’s fisheries, the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
“The future of Antarctica’s unique Ross Sea hangs in the balance right now and the fate of key habitats is being decided,” said filmmaker Peter Young, whose film The Last Ocean is currently playing around the country as part of the NZ International Film Festival. “In my film, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCullly said ‘I would like to think that if we are going to move to putting a stronger priority on conservation issues, that New Zealand would lead that charge’, – now lets see him put his money where his mouth is.”
The New Zealand Ross Sea proposal is less conservation focused than that of the US but a unified proposal would have to be submitted to CCAMLR by 7 September to be considered at this year's meeting.
The AOA has called for 3.6 million square kilometres of critical ecosystems in the Ross Sea to be protected from fishing and development, particularly the continental slope and shelf, the Tangaroa and Scott seamounts and breeding grounds that are essential areas to protect as part of a network of marine protected areas being considered by CCAMLR.
CCAMLR agreed in 2008 to create a network of marine protected areas in some of the ocean around Antarctica this year and next. However, CCAMLR meets with limited public participation and no media access and the Alliance believes that, without public attention during the process, including inter-governmental meetings leading up to the annual event, there is a risk that minimal protection will be achieved.
The AOA is urging Minister McCully to ensure a unified New Zealand and US proposal protects all key marine habitats in the Ross Sea, including the continental slope and shelf.
“Now is the time to protect this amazing environment and for the US and NZ to raise their ambition for long-term environmental protection,” said the AOA’s NZ Coordinator Geoff Keey. “New Zealand should be leading marine protection in our region and the Ross Sea is one of the most important places where we can do that. With a decision likely to be taken this year, New Zealand needs to strengthen its political will to show real conservation leadership on the global stage.”
The AOA is asking members of the public interested in protecting the Ross Sea to contact McCully via:
The AOA in New Zealand is made up of organisations including Greenpeace, WWF, Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO) and Forest & Bird. Internationally some 30 organisations are participants in the Alliance in the US, UK, Europe, China and Korea.Web: www.antarcticocean.org
Twitter: #JointheWatch, #antarcticocean.