From: Richard Harris, NPR
Published July 12, 2013 06:24 AM

Huge Marine Preservation Area Being Considered for Antarctica

The area of ocean set aside as a nature preserve could double or triple in the coming days, depending on the outcome of a meeting in Germany. Representatives from 24 countries and the European Union are considering setting aside large portions of ocean around Antarctica as a protected area. And the deal may hinge on preserving some fishing rights.


There are two proposals on the table: One would set aside huge parts of the Southern Ocean around East Antarctica; the other would focus on the Ross Sea, south of New Zealand.

"The total size of the marine protected area we are proposing is roughly 3 1/2 times the size of Texas," says Ambassador Mike Moore, the former prime minister of New Zealand, who was talking up the joint U.S.-New Zealand proposal in Washington this spring. "So to misquote the vice president of the United States, 'this is a big deal.' "

Jim Barnes, who heads a conservation group called the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, says the Ross Sea area is one of the few relatively untouched regions left in the world's oceans. And it's rich in wildlife — including the great whales, penguins, seals and albatrosses, he says. "Similarly, along the east Antarctic coast, [there's] another really great concentration of wildlife — charismatic wildlife, as well as all the smaller [animals] that the food chain depends on."

But because these two areas are in international waters, creating marine preserves will require consensus from all of the nations in the pact known as CCAMLR, or the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

The Australia-France-EU Proposal. This proposal for new marine protected areas "would conserve representative areas of biodiversity in the high latitudes of the Indian sector of the Southern Ocean," according to the Australian Antarctic Division.
Photo credit Australian Antarctic Division.

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