Three nations have just denied a proposal that would create the world’s largest marine reserve. It’s not just any marine reserve, this one would’ve been built in the Antarctic Ocean. The reserve would have covered a vast 1.8 million square kilometers (roughly 700,000 square miles), protecting countless marine creatures including blue whales, leopard seals, orcas, and penguins.

Unanimous vote not met

The CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) recently held meetings in Hobart, Tasmania. Twenty-two members voted in favor of the huge ocean reserve including the US, UK, and the European Union. However, the proposal needed unanimous support for it to continue and thanks to China, Russia, and Norway, support wasn’t granted.

Dean Lewins

Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic Campaign has stated that “twenty-two delegations came here to negotiate in good faith but, instead, serious scientific proposals for urgent marine protection were derailed by interventions which barely engaged with science and made a mockery of any pretense of real deliberation.”

Why protect Antarctic waters?

Protecting Antarctic waters isn’t just about conserving threatened species, it could play a huge role in battling climate change. Antarctica is a vital carbon store since its waters absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide. Krill helps remove this carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by eating the food close to the water’s surface.

John Bennett

The crustaceans then carry it to cooler waters where the carbon becomes excreted. They are also a key food source for other animals like penguins and whales. This proposal would’ve prevented industrial-scale fishing for krill in the area which is a practice that Norway, China, and Russia are heavily involved in.

Hope for the future?

Although this proposal didn’t pass, there’s still some hope. The UK recently urged the UN to protect 30% of the world’s seas by 2030, improving the recent target of only 10% by 2020. The new plan involves the protection of ecosystems and species as well as the sustainable management of ocean resources like fish.

John Misachi/Native Mammals of Antarctica

Hopefully, this plan will help us keep the krill of the Antarctic and all the other threatened species from disappearing forever.