This year’s October meeting of the CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) in Hobart, Australia ended on a sorry note with no consensus on designation of MPAs (marine protected areas) in the Antarctic ocean. This happened because two nations — Russia and Ukraine — did not comply to the two proposals —. a Ross Sea MPA and MPAs for East Antarctica and China objected to the East Antarctica proposal.

CCAMLR comprises 14 nations and the EU. The two proposals were the same as the final versions at the close of last year's CCAMLR meeting and this year’s special meet at Bremerhaven, Germany in July.

US and New Zealand made the proposal for the Ross Sea MPA of 1.32 million km with a 1.25 million km area ‘no take’ zone, and Australia, France and the EU made the proposal for an East Antarctic MPA network of 1.6 million km in which future fishing activities would have to be approved by consensus.

The meet in Germany had failed because of non-compliance by Russia.

In the recent meet, after extensive discussion in the scientific committee over the two previous meetings, and also in a working group in Hobart, Russia and Ukraine blocked the proposals going to the drafting committee — indicating they didn't think there was enough agreement among countries for this to happen.

On whether any alternative proposals came up at the meeting, Mr. Steve Campbell, Campaign Director, Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA), a coalition of 30 leading environmental groups, noted in an email to this correspondent: “The US and New Zealand tabled a revised proposal for this meeting for the Ross Sea, with a 40 per cent reduction in size from Bremerhaven.”

But Russia and Ukraine slowed down the negotiations at this meeting, particularly on the question of the duration of protection and the size of the areas and finally did not agree to the proposals.

Australia, France and the EU discussed an alternative proposal for East Antarctica, but this was not formally presented to the meeting.

China did not think that enough discussion for the East Antarctica proposal had yet taken place.

The Southern Ocean is home to more than 10,000 unique species including most of the world’s penguins, whales, seabirds, colossal squid and the remarkable Antarctic toothfish — the main target of fishing companies in the region. It is a crucial area for scientific research, both for studying how intact marine ecosystems function and for determining the impacts of global climate change.

As the southern hemisphere summer is in full swing, fishing boats of many countries are headed towards the Antarctic Ocean.

One can only wait and hope that at least next October CCAMLR will deliver on its promise to designate the much needed MPAs in the Antarctic Ocean.