The Alliance said the change brings with it renewed hope that Russia will lead member states to a breakthrough in the three-year pursuit of large-scale conservation, in the form of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean’s Ross Sea and East Antarctica.
“Nearly 200 years ago, Russia discovered Antarctica, and with that great honour also comes great responsibility,” said Grigory Tsidulko, Russian campaigner of Antarctic Ocean Alliance.
“By adding Antarctic marine protection to its impressive portfolio of Arctic conservation projects, Russia can become a global leader in marine polar conservation”.
CCAMLR, a convention ratified by Russia and 24 other member governments including EU, USA, Australia, UK, China, is charged with preserving the unique ecosystems of the seas surrounding Antarctica and is a part of Antarctic Treaty system.
All 25 CCAMLR members have committed to establishing a representative network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean by 2012. However, during CCAMLR’s annual meeting last November, negotiations failed to reach consensus for the fourth time in three years.
Under CCAMLR’s commitment, two marine protected area proposals under consideration are the Ross Sea (proposed by New Zealand and the United States) and East Antarctica (proposed by Australia, the EU and France).
These protected areas were developed according to fundamental conservation principles, including the precautionary approach and the use of the best available science.
Since first tabled in 2010/2011, both proposals have undergone numerous rigorous reviews and both have received the consensus approval of the Scientific Committee representatives of all 25 CCAMLR member governments to be considered by the Commission.
Subsequently, proponents have steadily compromised large areas of the originally proposed MPAs in order to try and reach consensus in the Commission, but despite four attempts in three years consensus has not yet been reached.
Nikolay Shabalin, Director of Centre for Marine Studies at Moscow State University, said: “Polar marine ecosystems, in both the Arctic and Antarctic waters, are the last pristine marine areas in the ocean.
"At both poles they face threats from climate change, increasing fisheries and other anthropogenic activities. These areas are extremely vulnerable and yearn for immediate protection so that they are preserved for generations to come.”