A recent proposal to create the world’s largest wildlife reserve has been blocked by three countries. The reserve, which would be a marine sanctuary in the Antarctic Ocean, would have covered a space of 700,000 square miles and is home to blue whales, leopard seals, orcas, penguins and a variety of other species that call the cold waters home.
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) recently held talks in Hobart, Tasmania where 22 members including the US, UK and the EU voted in favor of the ocean reserve while China, Russia, and Norway voted in opposition. The proposal needed unanimous support from all members to become finalized.
“This was a historic opportunity to create the largest protected area on Earth in the Antarctic: safeguarding wildlife, tackling climate change and improving the health of our global oceans,” said Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic Campaign. “Twenty-two delegations came here to negotiate in good faith but, instead, serious scientific proposals for urgent marine protection were derailed by interventions which barely engaged with the science and made a mockery of any pretense of real deliberation.”
The importance of protecting Antarctic waters cannot be overstated as the area is a key battleground for reducing climate change and protecting many species that are being treated. Antarctica is a huge carbon recycler and stores much of the worlds carbon and the continued removal of the food chain will add to the devastation we are already seeing.
The reason Norway, Russia and China opted out? Money. Krill fishing is a huge business in these waters as all three countries are heavily invested in the industry.
The UN has hopes that it will protect 30% of the worlds oceans by 2030 but with roadblocks such as this, it may be a difficult goal to achieve.