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Ross Sea protection may be signed off in July

Last updated 10:47 20/03/2013

TOM HUNT

JOHN MITCHELL

A view of the Admiralty Mountains and icebergs near Cape Hallet in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.

JOHN MITCHELL

A protected marine area in the Ross Sea, almost nine times the size of New Zealand, could be signed off as soon as July. 

Much of the proposed area is in New Zealand waters.

The 2.27 million square kilometre zone would be roughly two-thirds a general protection zone. No marine life could be taken from the 1.6m sqkm protection area, though whaling would be allowed. A small area, called a special research zone, allowed an average of 290 tonnes of toothfish per year per catch to be caught, though three fish in each tonne had to be tagged and released. 

A third area, called a spawning protection zone, banned krill fishing and toothfishing over winter.

A map of the proposed area can be seen here.

The Marine Protected Area (MPA) has now in Washington DC been backed in speeches by United States Secretary of State John Kerry and New Zealand Ambassador to the United States Mike Moore, a former New Zealand Prime Minister.

''The proposed MPA, if agreed by the members of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) at its Special Meeting in Germany this July, would be the largest in the world,'' Mr Moore said. 

The joint proposal, to protect the Antarctic environment, balanced conservation, fishing and research interests, he said. 

At a reception at the National Geographic Museum, also attended by Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, Mr Moore said the Ross Sea was one of the few places in the world with a full suite of top-level predators. 

Mr Moore said the proposed MPA was almost nine times the size of the size of New Zealand and the no-take area was six times the size of New Zealand.

''This is no small thing.''

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''We are proud that the proposal is based on quality science, developed on the basis of research from around the world. This is as an important step forward for enhancing scientific understanding of our Southern Ocean environment, including through valuable climate change and marine ecosystem research.''

Mr Kerry, a stalwart environmentalist and global warming battler, had given his personal support to the proposal.
Antarctic waters make up almost 10 per cent of the world's seas.

They are home to almost 10,000 unique and diverse species, including penguins, seals and whales.
CCAMLR members are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Europe, France, Germany, Italy, India,  Japan, Korea, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia,  South Africa,  Spain,  Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, US, and Uruguay.

- The Dominion Post

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