Antarctica reserve fail disappoints Ross descendant

8:56 pm on 1 November 2015

A descendant of the British explorer after whom the Ross Sea was named is heartbroken and frustrated that a bid to get marine protection for the sea has failed for a fifth time.

New Zealand is to try for a fourth time to get Antarctica's Ross Sea turned into the world's largest marine reserve.

NZ has failed for a fifth time to make Antarctica's Ross Sea the world's largest marine reserve. Photo: SCIENCE PHOTO

Twenty-four countries and the European Union have been discussing the proposal at a meeting in Hobart of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

For a reserve to be created, all 25 members of the commission have to support it, but China and Russia have been holding out.

Philippa Ross, who is descended from Sir James Clark Ross, said the failure to get a consensus was heartbreaking.

"It's just so frustrating ... the whole of CCAMLA was set up to protect the environment but personally I just think it's just a whole lot of geopolitical bullshit."

Ms Ross said the failure could be put down to the greed of particular nations for the money to be got from fishing.

The region, often referred to as the "Last Ocean", is mostly untouched by pollution, overfishing and invasive species.

Ms Ross said the nations that held out had blocked a move that would protect the world's last intact eco-marine system.

Future support possible - McCully

Meanwhile Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said China had announced that it could support a Ross Sea marine protected area (MPA) in the future.

"China's support for a revised MPA is a major step forward in reaching the consensus required to put workable protections in place for the Ross Sea.

"The revised proposal, which is being developed, includes a new Antarctic krill research zone."

Mr McCully said in a statement that this new addition was designed to promote research and scientific understanding of krill in the northwestern Ross Sea region.

"Directed fishing for krill will also be permitted in the existing Special Research Zone of the MPA, in addition to the limited fishing for toothfish that is already provided for."

He said the total size of the marine protected area had increased to more than 1.5 million square kilometres.

Two thirds of the proposed reserve would not allow fishing, but it would be permitted in a further 500,000 square kilometres.

"We also welcome Russia's statement that it is open to working with members on the MPA ahead of the next CCAMLR meeting in 2016," Mr McCully said.

The Soviet Union started a permanent krill harvest in the Antarctic 43 years ago.

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