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What’s at stake: the largest protected area on Earth. (Photo: Greenpeace)

Antarctica’s marine sanctuary will have to wait

WORLDWIDE
Monday, November 05, 2018, 23:50 (GMT + 9)

The creation of a large Antarctic Sanctuary will have to wait, since the governments that met for two weeks in Hobart, Australia could not agree on the establishment of what would have become the largest protected area on the planet.

Greenpeace accuses the Antarctic Ocean Commission (CCAMLR) of "not fulfilling its mandate" to protect Antarctic waters, a proposal endorsed by 22 of the 25 member countries and by almost three million people worldwide.

"A historic opportunity has been lost to create the largest protected area on Earth in Antarctica: an opportunity to safeguard biodiversity, fight climate change and improve the health of our oceans. 22 delegations arrived in Australia to negotiate in good faith, but, nevertheless, the solid scientific statements for urgent marine protection were diverted from the debate with interventions that are far from science and mocking any pretense of real deliberation," said Pilar Marcos, responsible for Protect the Antarctic campaign of Greenpeace in Spain.

"Instead of offering reasoned and scientifically based opposition, some delegations, such as China and Russia, used delaying tactics to dismantle and destroy amendments, which has meant that there has been almost no time left for a real discussion on the protection of human rights. Antarctic waters. The only glimmer of hope came when the small vulnerable marine ecosystems identified by Greenpeace in our recent expedition were approved for protection," she added.


Photo: CCAMLR

The delegations from China, Norway and Russia voted against the proposal to create three new marine protected areas in Antarctica, in the Weddel Sea and in the Western Antarctic Peninsula.

"China's commitment to be the environmental leaders and to seek a world with a shared future for humanity seems to have overlooked its delegation in the Antarctic Ocean Commission, which clearly did not act with the good faith that is expected in these negotiations. China, on the contrary, has obstructed all opportunities to cooperate and create the largest marine protected area in the world," said Greenpeace policy advisor Dr. Laura Mellers.

With regard to Norway, she stressed that this country decided to present its own proposal dividing the area in two, so, in order to reach a consensus, the organization asks Norway "to establish a work plan with a clear timetable as to how its proposal contributes to the mandate of the Commission to proceed urgently to the creation of a network of large-scale marine protected areas."

Photo: Greenpeace Antartic Campaign

Regarding Russia, Dr. Mellers accused this country of not acting in good faith after having agreed to protect the Ross Sea in 2016. In his opinion, since then, Russia "has only pursued the interests of industrial fishing while preventing the commission from fulfilling its mandate to create a network of sanctuaries in the Antarctic Ocean."

Greenpeace recalls that in 2009 the Commission agreed to create a network of sanctuaries, but regrets that its diplomatic efforts seem to be more concerned about the expansion of fishing than with conservation.

"If organisms like the Antarctic Ocean Commission continue to fail in their mandate to conserve the ocean, they are clearly not fit for purpose and are not part of the solution. We must focus on the historic negotiations that are taking place at the UN to achieve a Global Treaty of the Oceans," Marcos warned.

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