NEW Zealand and United States negotiators are out to convince their foreign counterparts of the merits of closing off large swathes of the Ross Sea to fishing.
If approved, the marine sanctuaries north of Antarctica will be the biggest marine reserves in the world.
The 25-member country Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which regulates the seas around Antarctica, is meeting in Bremerhaven, Germany on Monday and Tuesday.
It is a rare out-of-cycle meeting for the group, as it tries to push through plans for a 2.27 million square kilometre reserves in the Ross Sea with 1.6m sq km set aside as a no fishing zone, except for research purposes.
A second proposal from Australia, France and the European Union would designate marine protected areas in East Antarctica covering about 1.63m sq km.
MFAT’s Carolyn Schwalger will lead New Zealand’s delegation in the behind-closed-doors main meeting.
Last year, an effort to create the reserves failed because Russia, China and the Ukraine weren’t willing to back it.
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance’s Geoff Keey, who is attending the talks, says many countries, including the hosts Germany, are determined to get a result.
“They (the opposing countries) suggested that they were not convinced of the science provided to back up these two proposals but we suspect they are concerned about protecting their fishing interests,” he told NZ Newswire.
“As the Ross Sea and East Antarctic proposals still allow fishing we don’t believe this should be an issue.”
The AOA had wanted more protection for the spawning ground and no fishing at all in the special reserve, encompassing 3.6m sq km.
However, the smaller proposal was sufficient to be the foundation of a network of marine reserves and marine protected areas around the Antarctic. It could be expanded over time, Mr Keey said.