25 Oct 2012

NZ, US pitch Antarctic protection plans

9:33 am on 25 October 2012

New Zealand and the United States are each trying to convince an international science symposium in Hobart that their plan for a marine protected area in Antarctica should be adopted.

The symposium is being hosted by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CAMLAR) and will consider proposals to protect the Ross Sea, West Antarctic Peninsula and East Antarctica.

New Zealand's proposal covers an area of the Ross Sea along Victoria Coast from McMurdo Sound, an area nine times the size of New Zealand.

CAMLAR's former executive secretary Denzil Miller says both proposals aim to protect Antarctic areas and species in them including penguins, seals, Antarctic krill, whales and the "target species", toothfish.

Greenpeace says the US proposal is more of an open attempt at protecting areas of biodiversity, while New Zealand's plan looks after its vested interests in the toothfish industry by reserving the space where its four vessels operate for two months a year.

"We believe that there are much greater values that New Zealand should have prioritised protecting, which is the biodiversity and the uniquely pristine ecosystem of the Ross Sea," says spokesperson Karli Thomas.

Ms Thomas says neither proposal is strong enough to properly cover areas where toothfish spawn and both countries need to step aside from their vested interests.