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Conservation Group Fails Again To Establish Massive Antarctic Marine Sanctuaries

A penguin stands atop a block of melting ice in East Antarctica. (file photo)

Members of an international conservation consortium have failed for the eighth year in a row to set up large marine sanctuaries around Antarctica to counter climate change and protect ocean ecosystems.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) said on November 2 that members could not agree on the proposal, which was backed by Australia, France, and the European Union and would have protected habitat for penguins, seals, whales, and seabirds.

Sources familiar with the closed-door talks told the AFP news agency that opposition from Russia and China blocked the proposal at the CCAMLR annual meeting in the Australian city of Hobart.

Moscow and Beijing have been key in blocking the plan that was first put forward in 2010 before being scaled down in 2017 in an attempt to win greater support.

China and Russia have opposed the creation of the parks because of concerns over compliance issues and fishing rights.

The consortium considered proposals to create marine protected areas (MPAs) in three areas off Antarctica covering a total of some 3 million square kilometers.

In 2016, the CCAMLR summit attendees agreed to establish a giant MPA backed by the United States and New Zealand around the Ross Sea in an area about the size of Britain, Germany, and France combined.

The latest proposals, which the group said will be considered again next year, would create additional sanctuaries in East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea, and off the Western Antarctic Peninsula.

Based on reporting by AFP and The Guardian