7 Sep 2012

Ross Sea protection proposal criticised

8:36 am on 7 September 2012

Environmental groups are critical of the Government's proposal for a Marine Protected Area in the Ross Sea, saying it favours protecting commercial toothfish interests over conservation.

The proposal would mean the fishing of toothfish would be banned in the area.

The Government had discussed a joint proposal with the United States but instead decided to put forward a separate plan.

It says if its Antarctic proposal is successful it will be the largest marine protected area in the world, covering an area nine times the size of New Zealand.

Antarctic Ocean Alliance coordinator Geoff Keey says many parts of New Zealand's proposed protection area do not need protection because they are of no interest to the fishing industry.

"The real challenge is that there are some critical ecosystems in the heart of the Ross Sea region which need protection."

Mr Keey says the Government should restart talks with the United States which wants wider conservation measures.

Three of New Zealand's biggest fishing companies - Sanford, Sealord and Talley's - catch toothfish but the Government's plan will not alter their commercial interests.

Toothfish earns New Zealand some $20 million in exports annually and is mainly sent to the United States.