06, Sep, 2012

NZ risks political ‘train-wreck’ in rejecting joint US Ross Sea marine reserve proposal

Category: Antarctic Ocean Alliance

Plans for a marine reserve in the Ross Sea are in trouble after Cabinet rejected a draft agreement with the United States Government on a joint proposal to create the world’s biggest marine reserve in Antarctica’s Ross Sea.

In less than 50 days, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) – the body that regulates fishing and protection of these waters – will meet in Hobart, Tasmania to debate proposals for Ross Sea protection. The 24 nations (plus the EU) of CCAMLR make decisions by consensus and, the AOA says, separate, competing proposals from NZ and the US risks undermining the chance of a Ross Sea consensus agreement. 

“Cabinet’s unreasonable rejection of a proposal negotiated between US and NZ officials puts at risk the chances of a Ross Sea marine reserve later this year,” said Antarctic Ocean Alliance New Zealand coordinator Geoff Keey.

“The Antarctic Ocean Alliance strongly encourages New Zealand and the US to continue to strive towards a joint proposal at CCAMLR in late October, providing an opportunity for real conservation leadership by all participating countries now, while we have a window of opportunity to protect this incredible habitat.”

“Although the draft US-NZ proposal would have fallen short of what is necessary to protect the world’s least impacted marine ecosystem, it would have included important conservation gains and improved on New Zealand’s original proposal,” Keey said. “The failure of Cabinet to agree to back the US-NZ proposal is a slap in the face to the US – one of New Zealand’s key Antarctic allies in the region.”

“Cabinet has handed Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully an impossible mission to push a weak marine reserve proposal in the face of United States’ opposition,” according to Keey. “New Zealand needs to now consider how it will avoid a train wreck at negotiations on Antarctic marine protection at the CCAMLR meeting later this year.”


The Ross Sea, often referred to as the Last Ocean because it is one of the most intact marine environments left on earth, is a critical habitat for Antarctic toothfish. New Zealand and Korea are the predominant nations currently fishing for toothfish in the Ross Sea.

The AOA’s research has identified over 40% of the Southern Ocean in 19 habitats that warrants protection in a network of large-scale, no-take marine reserves and marine protected areas (MPAs) based on combining existing marine protected areas, areas identified within previous conservation and planning analyses and including additional key environmental habitats. For details, see the AOA’s Circumpolar Report at:

About the Antarctic Ocean Alliance

The AOA is made of 30 organisations from around the world including WWF, Greenpeace, The Last Ocean, Forest & Bird, ECO, the Humane Society International, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Greenovation Hub in China and KFEM in Korea. More than 80,000 people around the world have joined the AOA’s “Watch” of CCAMLR to call for large-scale marine protection for Antarctica.

Twitter: #JointheWatch, #Antarcticocean

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