2 Nov 2012

Setback for Ross Sea marine area proposal

9:03 pm on 2 November 2012

A meeting in Australia has failed to agree on a proposal to protect Antarctica's Ross Sea from overfishing by turning it into one of the world's largest protected marine areas.

The 25 members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources had been discussing the proposal in Hobart.

Korea, China, Japan and Russia are believed to have blocked the protection plan, which needed a consensus between the nations to pass.

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says getting all the countries to agree was always going to be a tough proposition, but he believes the marine reserve will eventually be agreed on.

"The proposal that was developed between New Zealand and the US finds, broadly, a good compromise between the interests of science, fishing and conservation. I think it will get across the line eventually."

Mr McCully says a special meeting has called for July next year, where there will be an opportunity to try to persuade some of the countries which don't share New Zealand's conservation values to back the plan.

Biologist Peter Wilson, who specialises in Antarctica, says it is unlikely countries against the plan will change their attitude, but there may be change if there is enough public pressure.

However, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance is optimistic about revisiting the proposal at next year's meeting.

Spokesperson Geoff Keey attended the Hobart meeting and though the outcome was disappointing, the group will keep fighting to protect the 2.2 million square kilometre area of Ross Sea in question.