International tensions as talks to protect Antarctica begin
Twenty-five member nations of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) are set to discuss the creation of two large marine protected areas to protect the Antarctic environment from fishing and other commercial activities, but the move is being opposed by Russia and China.
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The CCAMLR will decide on proposals to create marine protected areas (MPAs) in East Antarctica and the Ross Sea, initiatives to reduce illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean and setting catch limits for some species and for research fisheries.
Talks officially began in Hobart, Tasmania, on Monday. Of the MPAs proposals, one has been submitted by Australia, the European Union and France and one by New Zealand and the US.
However, it is expected that Russia and China will oppose the measures, on the ground this would affect the fishing industry.
There are also fears that the tense relationship between Russia and Australia, worsened by the MH17 flight tragedy that carried mostly Australians, could affect the talks.
CCAMLR’s Australian secretary Andrew Wright said, “No one hangs their coat and hat up at the door, some of those issues come through.
“We do expect and it is not unreasonable in a multilateral setting such as this, that there are other issues going on … that do impact on a member’s political position.”
Last year, attempts to create marine reserves in the Antarctic failed, because they were opposed by Russia, Ukraine and other nations. This time, the size of the area has been almost halved.
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) has urged members not to hesitate in approving the plan, given the many compromises already done.
Mark Epstein, executive director of the organisation, said, “During the past three CCAMLR meetings, we have hoped for action on marine protection in Antarctica’s waters, protection that CCAMLR promised to put in place by 2012. Instead we have seen three years of inaction.
“While this meeting provides another opportunity for global leaders to live up to their overdue commitments, the time is now for action on marine protection.”
Photo: brookpeterson via flickr
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