NZ snubs US conservation proposal for Last Ocean

Press release - September 6, 2012
Auckland, 6 September 2012 – The New Zealand Government has rejected a joint proposal with the US to protect Antarctica’s Ross Sea, sources have revealed to the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, which includes Greenpeace.

This means the two countries will back different plans for Ross Sea protection, significantly reducing the chances of a consensus agreement at next month’s international meeting (1) to discuss the issue.

Greenpeace New Zealand Campaigner Steve Abel says the New Zealand snub is a missed opportunity to work with the US on protecting key areas of the Ross Sea, also referred to as ‘The Last Ocean’ as it remains relatively unaffected by human impacts.

“Foreign Affairs Minister McCully said he wanted New Zealand to lead on conservation proposals for the Ross Sea. In fact, the New Zealand’s proposal is the weaker of the two and we are dragging down US conservation ambitions with us.”

Abel says the New Zealand proposal puts the needs of a small and economically marginal fishery ahead of protecting the most pristine ocean on the planet.

“New Zealand’s proposal appears to be carefully designed to leave out any areas that are associated with fishing. It misses vital habitats and does not safeguard the heart of the Ross Sea ecosystem.

“Despite our roll as historic guardians of the Ross Sea the Government has sided with the fishing industry. Internationally it is an embarrassment. It is a betrayal of our core New Zealand values and a dark day for our reputation as a leader on environmental protection,” Abel says.

Greenpeace supports the Antarctic Ocean Alliance proposal for additional protection of vital ecological regions of the Ross Sea, including the entire shelf and slope. Neither the US’ nor New Zealand’s proposals meet this ambition.