SYDNEY Nov 1 Russia and the Ukraine on Friday
again scuttled plans to create the world's largest ocean
sanctuary in Antarctica, pristine waters rich in energy and
species such as whales, penguins and vast stocks of fish, an
environmentalist group said.
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine
Living Resources wound up a week-long meeting in Hobart,
Australia, considering proposals for two "marine protected
areas" aimed at conserving the ocean wilderness from fishing,
drilling for oil and other industrial interests.
"It seems pretty clear that a small group of countries led
by Russia wanted to wreck the agreement," Steve Campbell,
director of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance which campaigns for
protecting the Antarctic seas, said by phone from London.
For the sanctuary proposals to pass, they need backing from
all 200 delegates from 25 member countries, many of which have
Russia and Ukraine also actively blocked the two proposals
in July, with China withdrawing support for one.
"This is a dark day not just for the Antarctic, but for the
world's oceans," Andrea Kavanagh, director of the independent
Pew Charitable Trusts' Southern Ocean sanctuaries project, said.
Tony Fleming, director of the Australian Antarctic Division,
hoped for a more favourable outcome the next time the proposals
are discussed next year.
"If we work with members throughout the year, I believe we
can bring a proposal back to next year's meeting which will
hopefully achieve consensus," he said. He did not elaborate.
Antarctica is home to more than 10,000 species including
most of the world's penguins, whales, seabirds, colossal squid
and Antarctic tooth fish.
It is considered one of the least altered marine ecosystems
and provides a global reference point for assessing the
consequences of climate change.
"While many other marine ecosystems in other parts of the
world have been devastated by development, pollution, mining and
over-fishing, many of Antarctica's ocean habitats remain intact
with all of their predator species still thriving," the
Antarctic Ocean Alliance says on its website.
(Reporting by Pauline Askin; Editing by Nick Macfie)