Pew: Nations Miss Historic Opportunity to Protect Antarctic Waters

Ross Sea proposal expanded, however, with China’s support

Pew: Nations Miss Historic Opportunity to Protect Antarctic Waters

Penguin© 2015 John B. Weller

Lone penguin walks across ice.

Hobart, Australia—For the fifth consecutive meeting, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)—which consists of 24 member countries and the European Union—was unable to reach a consensus to create protected areas in the Ross Sea and the waters off East Antarctica. However, China did endorse a proposal for a Ross Sea marine reserve that would be 20 percent larger than one proposed at the beginning of the meeting.

The United States and New Zealand came to an agreement with China to increase the overall size of the proposed Ross Sea marine reserve to 1.57 million square kilometers (606,180 square miles); in 2014, China had prevented any progress on marine protected areas. But CCAMLR was again blocked by Russia from reaching consensus on designating both the revised Ross Sea marine protected area and another proposed MPA in the East Antarctic region—which together would have safeguarded more than 2.5 million square kilometers (971,819 square miles), an expanse larger than Alaska and Texas combined.

Both designations would have restricted industrial fishing in some of the most pristine marine environments left on Earth and protected iconic species such as whales, penguins, and seals. China blocked consensus on several other issues, including vessel monitoring and krill observer coverage.

Andrea Kavanagh, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ global penguin conservation campaign, issued this statement:

“China’s endorsement of the expanded Ross Sea proposal is a positive development, and we are encouraged that Russia has expressed an interest in working on this in the coming year. Ultimately the late-breaking nature of the new proposal and lack of substantive work early in the meeting resulted in a repeat of the previous four meetings, with no consensus reached and no protection for the rich Southern Ocean ecosystem and millions of animals that call these waters home.

“While it is encouraging that China has endorsed a revision of the marine reserve in the Ross Sea, it is troubling that the Chinese derailed many other important measures by prioritizing fishing over advancing science-based conservation, which is the heart of the CCAMLR charter.”

More information on Pew’s global penguin conservation campaign is available at

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