Nick Perry -
Antarctica’s Ross Sea is often described as the most isolated and pristine ocean on Earth, a place where seals and penguins still rule the waves and humans are about as far away as they could be.
But even there it has proven difficult, and maybe impossible, for nations to agree on how strongly to protect the environment.
The United States and New Zealand have spent two years trying to agree on an Alaska-sized marine sanctuary where fishing would be banned and scientists could study climate change.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took a strong interest in the outcome, regularly prodding diplomats, and New Zealand recently sent a delegation to Washington to reach a tentative deal.
That compromise, over a region that accounts for less than 2 percent of New Zealand’s fishing industry, flopped this month when senior New Zealand politicians rejected it behind closed doors.
The U.S. and New Zealand have now sent competing plans to the 25 countries that meet annually each October to decide the fate of Antarctica’s waters.
Their inability to agree greatly increases the chances that nothing will get done.
Evan Bloom, director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs, said the U.S. put a great deal of effort into its reserve proposal because it believes the Ross Sea is the best place on Earth for scientists to carry out studies away from the influence of mankind.
“If you can’t do it in Antarctica, where can you do it ?” said Bloom.