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Russia blocks ocean sanctuaries around Antarctica

The meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) concluded yesterday.

Disappointingly, Russia blocked efforts to create of the world’s largest ocean sanctuaries around Antarctica. Everyone, including the penguins, are devastated.

The two proposals for ocean sanctuaries — one for the Ross Sea – often called the ‘last ocean’ because it is one of the last untouched marine eco-systems left – and the coastal regions of East Antarctica. Together they cover 3.8 million square kilometres of the Southern Ocean. Without a doubt, the establishment of these two sanctuaries would be a fantastic step for our global oceans – already under stress from overfishing, climate change and pollution.

In the end Russia, with support from the Ukraine, challenged CCAMLR’s legal authority to establish marine protected areas, leading negotiations to collapse. This was particularly frustrating because, unlike some international conventions, most nations came to CCAMLR in good faith to negotiate an outcome, including those countries that had concerns about the two proposals.

This is a sad outcome for you after all the support you have given the campaign. But rest assured your support has been critical throughout our campaign and your voices have been heard loud and clear. Decision makers saw the 6,000 or more messages on our Twitter wall during the meeting at our reception and in the lobby in front of their meeting room. We delivered the 1.3 million signatures to each of the heads of delegation at the meeting. Even better, decision makers received over 5,000 emails from you calling on them to support efforts to establish the world’s largest ocean sanctuaries in the Southern Ocean.

These actions cannot not be underestimated and demonstrates the vast international support for protection of the high seas in the Southern Ocean. This campaign has an ever growing tide of supporters, and we are confident we are going to win!

As home to more than 10,000 species, including whales, seabirds, seals, giant squid and most of the world’s penguins, Antarctica’s Southern Ocean is really a global commons. While a number of countries fish these waters, no nation has dominion over what is 10% of the world’s environment. All the more reason to protect it.

While we’re all incredibly disappointed, we won’t give up the fight to protect the last pristine ocean wilderness left on earth.

Thanks for all your support and we’ll be back at CCAMLR’s next meeting in three months time in Hobart in October.