Hopes of creating a protection zone across a large region of the Antarctic ocean have faded, after a high-profile meeting in Australia, which closed last week.
Negotiators from 25 member states, including China, Russia and the EU, were meeting in Hobart, Australia, to try to create the world’s largest network of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, starting with the Ross Sea and East Antarctica.
A deal would have protected millions of square kilometres of ocean around Antarctica, banning industrial fishing fleets.
However, The Australian newspaper reported that China was among the countries which had blocked the proposals due its desire to gain access to fishing in the region. Russia and the Ukraine are also believed to be sceptical of the protected area plan.
Observers are still hopeful that members of The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) can strike a deal at the next meeting in July 2013.
Speaking to the scientific journal Nature, Alex Rogers, a conservation biologist at the University of Oxford, warned there were major differences between members over how to manage ocean resources – some favouring conservation and others focusing on the potential for exploitation.
Members of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance said commercial fishing fleets were the only winner from the negotiations.
“This year, CCAMLR has behaved like a fisheries organisation instead of an organisation dedicated to conservation of Antarctic waters,” said Farah Obaidullah of Greenpeace. “The question now is whether countries like Russia, China and the Ukraine will come to the next meeting prepared to meet their conservation commitments.”