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Antarctic marine reserve talks fall apart


A Qantas 747 charter flies over Antarctica a century after Douglas Mawson and his Australasian Antarctic Expedition mapped it.

Talks to create a massive international marine reserve in the Antarctic fell apart on Monday, after representatives from Russia, the Ukraine, and China voiced their concern with elements of the plan. 

Delegates from the European Union and 24 sovereign nations spent the past ten days deliberating the creation of two of the world's largest marine reserves as the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which manages the natural resources of the immense, icy continent. 

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In what was deemed a "dark day" for the Antarctic by environmental groups, according to the BBC, a proposal to create a protected zone measuring 618,000 square miles off East Antarctica was on the table, as well as a revised plan to reduce a Ross Sea reserve 40 percent to 482,000 square miles. 

However, both Russia and the Ukraine blocked these proposals, while China withdrew its support for the larger East Antarctica protected area.

They questioned the legal status of the reserve, and also worried that their access to valuable fishing stocks would be limited unduly by the new protected areas, according to the New York Times. 

Environmental advocates aren't happy, as they note that the waters around the Antarctic are some of the richest and most intact remaining in the world, and home to over 10,000 unique species. 

"It's a bad day, not just for Antarctica but for the world's oceans, because so many fisheries are over-exploited and this was the one place we could create a reserve," said Pew Charitable Trusts' Southern Ocean sanctuaries project director Andrea Kavanagh to the Guardian. "The fact it can be blocked by a few nations with interests in fishing is very hard to take.

Here's some footage of Antarctica from the air.