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US and New Zealand set aside differences to push for Antarctic protection

A proposed Antarctic marine reserve has overcome a potentially fatal stumbling block. The United States and New Zealand have reportedly agreed to set aside their differences and advance a joint proposal for a ‘marine protected area’ in the Ross Sea.

Conservation groups have been pushing for the reserve for some time, as more fishing vessels pursue lucrative toothfish in a sea teeming with whales, birds and other marine life.

Originally the United States and New Zealand worked on a joint proposal that was to be considered by the Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting now underway in Hobart, Tasmania. But the two nations could not agree on the fine detail of a reserve and submitted separate proposals to CCAMLR. As all 25 members of the commission have to agree for the reserve to become reality, this disagreement could have scuppered the plan (see ‘Antarctic seas in the balance’).

Now the two nations have agreed a joint proposal, according to those attending the meeting. The Antarctic Ocean Alliance, a coalition of conservation groups active in the Ross Sea debate, says that the agreement is “a milestone” but warned there were still major doubts about whether the joint proposal can successfully navigate the remainder of the CCAMLR meeting, which is due to conclude 1 November.


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