The 18,000 of us who emailed Foreign Affairs minister Murray McCully calling on him to push for strong protection of the Antarctic Ross Sea may have swayed him. But when the proposal went to Cabinet last week it was thwarted by Steve Joyce, Gerry Brownlee and David Carter who said that properly protecting the most pristine marine ecosystem left on earth was “not consistent with the Government's economic growth objectives”.
But, as appalling as this sounds, it’s not the end of it.
First, the NZ Government rejected an opportunity for a joint proposal with the United States to protect the Ross Sea. This meant the two countries had to submit separate proposals, significantly reducing the likelihood of substantive protection getting through at all.
Next, to our shame, New Zealand submitted a weaker proposal that fails to safeguard the heart of the Ross Sea ecosystem and leaves it open to fisheries.
It was as if they drew a line around the main fishing spots and left them unprotected. These areas also happen to be some of the most important ecological regions that are in most need of protection.
So Minister McCully is left holding a marine protected area proposal with a gaping hole in it that does not safeguard the heart of the Ross Sea ecosystem.
Despite New Zealand’s role as historic guardians of the Ross Sea, this Government has abandoned the ‘Last Ocean’ and sided with the fishing industry - putting the needs of the small and economically marginal toothfish fishery ahead of protecting the most pristine ocean on the planet.
It’s not good enough!
NZ once had a reputation as a leader in environmental protection - let’s not let them change that.