Global Insider: Marine Reserve Failure Undermines Antarctic Treaty States’ Credibility

A meeting in Hobart, Australia, of countries charged with protecting marine life in the waters around Antarctica closed last week without a vote on a joint proposal by New Zealand and the United States to create a marine protected area in the Ross Sea.* In an email interview, Alan D. Hemmings, an environmental consultant and specialist on Antarctic governance and environmental management, discussed the bid to protect the Ross Sea.

WPR: What is at stake in the discussion over creating a protected area in the Ross Sea?

Alan D. Hemmings: At stake is, critically, the Ross Sea ecosystem -- what eminent U.S. biologist David Ainley calls “the last ocean on Earth where an intact, open ocean ecosystem still exists with all its flora and fauna still present.” Fifteen years after New Zealand initiated fishing there, we risk damaging this ecosystem irrevocably. Second, the credibility of the ecosystem-focused Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), declared to be more than just a regional fisheries management organization, is in question. And, of course, the standing of the states of the Antarctic Treaty System, who claim particular Antarctic responsibilities, is at stake as well.

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