Report by Contributed by Alex Barrow

International talks addressing the protection of the Ross Sea and the East Antarctic coastal region have fallen short of environmental scientists’ hopes.


The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) have failed to adopt protected marine proposals due to a lack of support from Russia at this year’s annual meeting. The CCAMLR Commission is membered by twenty five states as well as eleven acceding states.

For the bids to pass, all CCAMLR member countries have to collectively agree to impose these seas as marine protected areas (MPAs). Active support from China and the US for the proposal to protect the Ross Sea for marine preservation purposes,  met with resistance from Russia. And both Russia and China voted against official protection of the East Antarctic coast.

Opposition is largely due to fishing industries and economic benefit. Although this factor carries some weight, Professor Mark Costello of the University of Auckland cautions against prioritising economic benefit. “A more precautionary approach would be to protect the entire Southern Ocean and then negotiate where and what kind of fishing would be allowed based on its economic (e.g., no government subsidies) and environmental sustainability”.

The Ross Sea is one of the last seas relatively untouched by humans, retaining a natural state virtually free of pollution, over-fishing and invasive species. The drive to protect it draws from the sea being uncontaminated and giving scientists an opportunity to research marine wellbeing as well as protecting species from over-fishing.

This is the fifth time in a row that the bid to get marine protection has failed, causing frustration amongst scientists. Professor Costello says that negating countries are neglecting their responsibilities. “No country owns these areas and resources but they have agreed to be responsible to care for them for future generations. It is thus appalling that after several years of negotiations that any country would object to having some areas that are left as natural as possible”

Over the past five years proposals for MPA protection in these Antarctic zones have been regularly revised. China has approved the latest revisions for the protection of the Ross Sea but have not yet yielded to the proposals regarding the eastern seas of the Antarctic.

Professor Karen Scott of the University of Canterbury is positive about this improvement and optimistic that the near future will bring better results.

“The positive steps taken by China and Russia in respect of the Ross Sea proposal moves us closer to establishing Marine Protected Areas in 2016.  International developments including the designation of other MPAs on the high seas demonstrate that states are becoming increasingly supportive of area protection in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction”.

Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.