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Russia Blocks Creating Vast Ocean Sanctuary In Antarctica

An Adelie penguin stands atop a block of melting ice near the French station at Dumont d'Urville in East Antarctica.

Russia has again blocked attempts to create the world's largest ocean sanctuary in Antarctica, the last country to oppose protecting the pristine waters from fishing.

A revised plan won support for the first time this year from China at a meeting of an Antarctica conservation commission in Australia on October 30.

But Russia prevented the group for a fifth time from reaching the consensus needed for an agreement to protect the Southern Ocean, which represents about 10 percent of the Earth's surface.

China endorsed a plan to preserve the icy Ross Sea, the last intact marine ecosystem on Earth, mostly untouched by pollution, overfishing, and invasive species.

Russia, which offered to keep working toward consensus, had argued such a large area should not be closed off to fishing.

U.S. delegation leader Evan Bloom said Russia's opposition was frustrating, but "there's also a bit of optimism because now there's just one country left and we're closer than we have ever been before."

Antarctica is home to more than 10,000 species including most of the world's penguins, whales, seabirds, and colossal squid.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP