Most of the World's Penguins Face an Uncertain Future — Thanks Russia

The world's "last ocean" will remain open for exploitation following a failed agreement among several countries that would have protected the Ross Sea, along with East Antarctica's coastline, from the global fishing industry.

The agreement was crafted by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), whose 25 members have been meeting in Germany. It would have established two massive Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), totaling almost 900,000 square miles, off the coastline of Antarctica, and more than doubled the current area of protected ocean on the planet.

However, the proposal was essentially blocked on Tuesday by Russia, one of the few nations in the group that has fishing fleets in the region, in what campaigners called a "bad faith stalling tactic."

Mongabay.com calls the area "the most pristine marine ecosystem on the planet." The Ross Sea is home "to an abundance of penguins, whales, orcas, seals, and massive fish," and has, thus far, "largely avoided the degradation that has impacted much of the world's other marine waters," according to the environmental news site.

"[The] Ross Sea is the last open ocean tract (i.e., not a reef) that still has a food web much like what one would expect the 'Garden of Eden' to have been like. That is: all the 'fruits' are still there, ready to be picked," explained marine ecologist David Ainley in an interview with mongabay.com.

Yet, as Steve Campbell of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance explains, "After two years of preparation, including this meeting, which Russia requested to settle the scientific case for the Ross Sea and East Antarctic proposals, we leave with nothing."

According to the Guardian, CCAMLR requires unanimous agreement from all of its 25 member states to establish reserves.

"There is a question as to whether [CCAMLR] can successfully create MPAs in the short term. Until Russia [has] a change of heart, it's not going to happen," said Pew Charitable Trust Southern Ocean Sanctuaries Director Andrea Kavanagh.

“All of the world’s oceans — including those around Antarctica — are under increasing pressure that makes the protection of near pristine areas such as the Ross Sea and East Antarctica ever more urgent,” said Greenpeace oceans campaigner Richard Page. “Considerable effort and rigorous scientific work have been put in by many CCAMLR members to get this far. Russia must now work in good faith and make sure the proposals go forward at the next CCAMLR meeting to ensure a lasting legacy for future generations.”

“Antarctica’s ocean is one of the most vulnerable on Earth,” said Bob Zuur of WWF’s Antarctic and Southern Ocean Initiative. “I am incredibly disappointed that CCAMLR missed this opportunity to protect the home of more than 10,000 species, including most of the world’s penguins.”

This post originally appeared on Common Dreams.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Jacob Chamberlain

Jacob Chamberlain is an Associate Editor at Common Dreams. In addition to writing and editing headline articles, he also manages the Progressive Newswire and Video sections of the site. Prior to joining Common Dreams in January 2012, Jacob received his MA in Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Jacob has gained valuable experience in several different social justice and progressive issues organizations—in online communications, social media, journalism, and advocacy—including Provisions Library in Washington, DC; the Institute of Race Relations in London, UK; and Praxis Community Projects in London, UK

MORE FROM

Will Justice Anthony Kennedy retire at end of Supreme Court term? Here's what we know.

Rumors that the 80-year-old swing justice may leave the bench are fueling fear of a second Trump pick on the nation's high court.

3 states and D.C. allow same flammable building materials behind Grenfell Tower fire

The causes of London's Grenfell Tower are similar to the justifications used to waive fire regulations in the U.S.

New Jersey bill would require kids to be taught how to interact with police

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade would receive the education.

UK Parliament hit with cyberattack

Members of Parliament had difficulty accessing their emails Saturday in the wake of the attack.

Istanbul LGBT pride march banned by government for safety concerns

A right-wing nationalist group has vowed to stop the protest.

Compounds seized by US in December reportedly contained material useful in Russia probe

The Trump administration has reportedly been considering returning the New York and Maryland compounds to Russia.

Will Justice Anthony Kennedy retire at end of Supreme Court term? Here's what we know.

Rumors that the 80-year-old swing justice may leave the bench are fueling fear of a second Trump pick on the nation's high court.

3 states and D.C. allow same flammable building materials behind Grenfell Tower fire

The causes of London's Grenfell Tower are similar to the justifications used to waive fire regulations in the U.S.

New Jersey bill would require kids to be taught how to interact with police

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade would receive the education.

UK Parliament hit with cyberattack

Members of Parliament had difficulty accessing their emails Saturday in the wake of the attack.

Istanbul LGBT pride march banned by government for safety concerns

A right-wing nationalist group has vowed to stop the protest.

Compounds seized by US in December reportedly contained material useful in Russia probe

The Trump administration has reportedly been considering returning the New York and Maryland compounds to Russia.