For the third time in a row, nations who had gathered to create a plan to protect two massive areas of the Antarctic have failed, leaving a pristine area known as the "Last Ocean" for its abundant and largely untouched ecosystem open to industrial wreckage.
"This is a dark day not just for the Antarctic, but for the world's oceans," said Andrea Kavanagh, director of the independent Pew Charitable Trusts' Southern Ocean sanctuaries project.
"While many other marine ecosystems in other parts of the world have been devastated by development, pollution, mining and over-fishing, many of Antarctica's ocean habitats remain intact with all of their predator species still thriving," the Antarctic Ocean Alliance says on its website—a reality that is soon to change if the area is left open to fishing and resource extraction.
The proposal, which had been scaled down in past meetings of The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), to create a marine sanctuary in the Ross Sea and a large area off of East Antarctica, had been introduced by the U.S. and New Zealand at this year's summit in Hobart, Australia, only to be severely weakened by alterations proposed by New Zealand later in the talks.
By the end of the ten-day gathering on Friday, the 24 nations along with the European Union failed to reach a consensus once again, with the biggest pushback coming from Ukraine and Russia, mirroring past negotiations, Associated Press reports.
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"It seems pretty clear that a small group of countries led by Russia wanted to wreck the agreement," Steve Campbell, director of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, which campaigns for protecting the Antarctic seas, told Reuters.
The CCAMLR is scheduled to meet again next October, where the proposal is expected to be brought to the table once again.
“The question of whether CCAMLR can deliver on its conservation mandate is in very serious doubt after another disappointing failure at this year’s meeting," Campbell said in a press statement. “CCAMLR does not meet again for another year, and each meeting without designating marine protection diminishes hopes that CCAMLR can meet its important commitments.”
“What we have witnessed over the last few years is the steady erosion of the spirit and mandate of CCAMLR to conserve our last intact ocean ecosystem remaining on earth,” said Farah Obaidullah, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner. “This year’s failure denigrates the reputation of CCAMLR and is symptomatic of a dangerous global trend where corporate and political interests override any genuine efforts to protect the oceans for the sake of future generations.”