The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has been accused of “going backwards” as its attempts to agree a sanctuary for threatened species has once again been halted by Russian and Chinese defiance. The organisation hosted talks in Tasmania last weekend, but they stalled for the eighth year in a row. The sanctuary proposal lead by France, the EU and Australia would create the largest of its kind in the world, protecting penguins and whales living in the region.
The plan to set up the sanctuary had the backing of 22 out of the 25 member countries but failed to pass because it required the support of all members.
The scheme would have banned commercial fishing there, allowing wildlife, fish and marine ecosystems to recover from human exploitation.
The Washington-based Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, a collective of environmental organisations in 40 countries, demanded action to protect waters surrounding Antarctica.
Claire Christian, its executive director, said that some countries had arrived at the Hobart meeting with no mandate to take action.
She said: “We urgently need global leadership.
“The science is settled. It is only political will preventing the creation of new marine protections in the world’s last great wilderness.”
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Australia currently control 5.9 million sq km of Antarctica – over 40 percent of the entire continent.
Both have resisted protective measures in the Southern Ocean region, as Moscow and Beijing also cast their eyes upon emerging natural resource opportunity as well.
Antarctica is seen as an untapped goldmine for oil and minerals, and China are already constructing a fifth base on the icy continent, and could prove crucial as competition also heats up in the Arctic.
Putin and US President Donald Trump are battling for control of natural oil reserves being unveiled by melting ice.
As Russia and China’s ambitions grow, Western nations will likely see more resistance coming out of the persistent super powers.