A step forward for a Ross Sea sanctuary

The Herald reports:

A New Zealand bid to establish the world’s largest marine reserve in is a step closer after China agreed to support the project.

China is understood to be one of several countries which has previously blocked attempts to create the massive reserve in the , 3500km south of New Zealand.

This is very significant. The countries against were Russia, China, Japan, Norway, Chile and Japan. Getting China on board is a major achievement.

In order to secure its support, New Zealand was revising plans for the marine protected area (MPA), and would allow some research to take place.

You need to compromise to get consensus. I just hope they define what level of research fishing is allowed, so it is not a huge loophole like the Japanese used with whaling.

The minister said Russia had also confirmed it was open to working with member states on an MPA ahead of the next CCAMLR meeting in 2016.

Like China, Russia has blocked the New Zealand proposal at past meetings.

Japan and Norway have also expressed concern about the permanence of the reserve, which prompted New Zealand officials to add a 50-year “sunset clause” which would allow it to be revised or scrapped.

The proposed MPA was originally 2.24 million sq km but was pared back in 2013 in a bid to gain support.

Russia will be the big obstacle, but sounds like they are coming around also.

The Ross Sea is known as the “Last Ocean” because it is the only intact marine ecosystem on earth, mostly untouched by pollution, overfishing, and invasive species.

This is why it is special. Like Antarctica itself, it is an untouched ecosystem which has huge benefits for scientific research. And blocking fishing in one area doesn’t decrease the amount of fish available for fishing – in fact it can increase it.

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