Ross Sea marine reserve threatened

12:13, Sep 06 2012

Plans for a marine reserve in the Ross Sea could be in jeopardy after New Zealand pulled out of a joint proposal with the United States, environment coalition Antarctic Ocean Alliance New Zealand (AOA) says.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully today announced New Zealand would submit its own proposal for the Marine Protection Area (MPA) in the Ross Sea region.

The submission would enable the toothfish fishery to continue in the areas outside New Zealand's proposed MPA.

It will be handed to the Commission for the Conservation of Antartica Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) tomorrow.

But AOA coordinator Geoff Keey said New Zealand's proposal was "weak" as it was designed to have zero impact on the fishing industry.

"The US one was more conservation focused," he said.


The United States had discussed drafting a joint proposal with New Zealand, "taking the best bits from both proposals,’’ Mr Keey said.

"It was genuinely expected that this would go through, … but Cabinet rejected the deal," he said.

This came after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Pacific leaders last week the US would continue to work with New Zealand on establishing a marine reserve in the Ross Sea.

"Although the draft US-NZ proposal would have fallen short of what is necessary to protect the world’s least impacted marine ecosystem, it would have included important conservation gains and improved on New Zealand’s original proposal," Mr Keey said.

He believed that having two proposals up for negotiations over the Ross Sea would create a "train wreck", and reduce the chances of the 25-nation group reaching an agreement.

"It creates an opportunity for other countries to say `until you two sort it out we are not going to agree to anything'. Countries will be forced to take sides."

Mr McCully said the country’s submission had some adjustments, and it shared common features with the United States’ proposal.

"If successful, this will be the largest MPA anywhere in the world - nine times the size of New Zealand,” he said.

"I have made a commitment to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that we will continue to work closely with the United States to achieve optimal outcomes from the CCAMLR process.’’

CCAMLR is part of the Antarctic Treaty System and manages the marine living resources in the waters around Antarctica.

The group will meet in Tasmania next month to debate the proposals.

To achieve a protected area, every CCAMLR member country must reach a consensus.

Fairfax Media