PM urged to make protecting the Ross Sea a personal mission
WELLINGTON, 17th Jan 2013 – The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) has called on New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to make a personal commitment to securing a marine reserve in the Ross Sea this year, and to increase the level of protection, as he prepares to depart on an Antarctic voyage Thursday.
New Zealand and the United States have put forward a joint Ross Sea protection proposal for consideration by the 25 member Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) at an extra-ordinary meeting in Germany in July. Success will depend on a strong political commitment from both proponent countries.
“Later today Prime Minister John Key will be flying over the Ross Sea and we want him to reflect on the legacy he could create,” said the AOA’s NZ Coordinator Geoff Keey.
“Now is the time to protect this amazing environment and for the US and NZ to raise their ambition for long-term environmental protection. New Zealand should be leading marine protection in our region and the Ross Sea is one of the most important places where they can do that. With a decision likely to be taken this year, New Zealand needs to redouble its efforts to ensure problems raised by resistant countries such as Russia and China are recognized and resolved.”
“John Key needs to make protecting this ‘last ocean’ a personal mission. This will help ensure that the members of CCAMLR agree to adopt a comprehensive Ross Sea region marine reserve when they meet in six months’ time.”
The AOA believes that there is significant room to improve the proposal to ensure conservation success. Although it proposes that 1.6 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea region will be fully no-take, compromises to satisfy domestic fishing interests mean that two critical ecosystems in the Ross Sea region won’t get the protection they deserve.
A Special Research Zone in the heart of the Ross Sea is left open and allows on average 290 tonnes of fish to be caught each year for ‘research fishing’ purposes, most of which would then be sold on international markets. A Spawning Protection Zone is also left open allowing toothfishing during the summer therefore only ‘protecting’ the zone at times of year when no fishing can be done due to ice cover.
“The proposal to protect 1.6 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea should be the foundation upon which comprehensive protection is built. The United States and New Zealand recognise the so called Spawning Protection Zone and the Special Research Zone are special places, so why aren’t they proposing the level of protection those areas deserve?”