No Protection for the Southern Ocean

Written by on November 3, 2012 in Marine Life
Emperor penguins in the Southwest Ross Sea, from NOAA's Ark Animals Collection.

Emperor penguins in the Southwest Ross Sea, from NOAA’s Ark Animals Collection. Photo credit: Michael Van Woert, NOAA/NESDIS/ORA.

Plans for an Antarctic marine sanctuary have failed again.  No decision was made at the recent government meeting in Australia, and officials have deferred the decision until July 2013.

Back in September, initial plans for the Antarctic marine sanctuary failed after the United States and New Zealand, who first suggested the sanctuary, couldn’t come to an agreement.  Then, over the last two weeks, the sanctuary was a big part of discussions at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)’s 31st annual meeting in Hobart, Australia.

CCAMLR requires a consensus on all decisions, and unfortunately, the issue of the marine sanctuary in the Southern Ocean never even came to a vote.

“This is a resounding disappointment for the conservation of the Ross Sea and East Antarctica, and for science,” said Gerald Leape, a marine policy official with the Pew Environment Group.

New Zealand and the U.S. had initially proposed a 872,000-square-mile reserve in the Ross Sea and East Antarctic.  Conservationists who supported the reserve wanted it to expand to over 1.9 million square miles.  But, despite the 1.2 million people (according to the Antarctic Ocean Alliance) who supported the sanctuary, all efforts were blocked, primarily by China and Russia.

“There are competing interests, in terms of commercial interests and in terms of the economic control of these areas, we floundered essentially at the end of the talks,” Steve Campbell of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance told BBC News.

“I am feeling sad and angry” said Jim Barnes, executive director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition. “This responsibility, and this failure, rests with all the members.”

Iceberg in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.

An iceberg drifting in the Ross Sea, from NOAA’s At The Ends of the Earth Collection. Photo credit: Michael Van Woert, NOAA NESDIS, ORA.

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Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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