After repeated failed attempts to establish an Antarctic Ocean sanctuary, the United States is hopeful it can sway Russia to agree to a plan that would protect a vast swath of what marine scientists call the most pristine body of water left on Earth. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: In Hobart Australia - the fate of the most pristine ocean left on Earth and the thousands of species that call it home -- hang in the balance. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources or CCAMLR is currently meeting… the goal - to agree a deal to conserve the Southern Ocean and manage its marine ecosystems. While the commission is supposed to base its decisions on science, political tensions and commercial fishing interests may prove the ultimate decider - that's according to new research from Stanford University. The commission is currently negotiating Marine Protected Areas - or MPAs - that amount to at least 12 percent of the Southern Ocean, home to more than 10,000 species including most of the world's penguins and whales. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CASSANDRA BROOKS, PHD CANDIDATE, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "Beyond resource interests, international geopolitics and tensions in other parts of the world are acting as a barrier to the MPA process." (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROBERT DUNBAR, PROFESSOR OF EARTH SYSTEM SCIENCE, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "There is a lot of tensions in the South China Seas, there is a lot of tensions between the U.S. and Russia and the Middle East and these tensions all add up." Add up to increased difficulties in coming to agreements on MPAs. Russia has already blocked conservation proposals five consecutive times, while all other delegates to the commission made of 24 nations and the European Union supported revised proposals to create MPAs in Antarctic waters. But Evan Bloom, the head of the U.S. delegation to CCAMPLR, says he's hopeful Russia can be swayed this year. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EVAN BLOOM, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF OCEAN AND POLAR AFFAIRS AT THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE AND HEAD OF U.S. DELEGATION TO CCAMLR MEETING, SAYING: "We hope to bring Russia on board. We are talking with them in a positive way." (SOUNDBITE) (English) EVAN BLOOM, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF OCEAN AND POLAR AFFAIRS AT THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE AND HEAD OF U.S. DELEGATION TO CCAMLR MEETING, SAYING: "Science can trump politics and we find that CCAMLR has the ability to make decisions that are focused on the ecosystem and scientific results. We think that can happen here." Campaigners believe any agreement, even one with many compromises, is an important step towards protecting the Southern Ocean.