PARIS — A proposal by the United States and New Zealand to create a huge ocean reserve in Antarctic waters has been sharply reduced in scale after opposition from Russia and other nations with large fishing industries. Environmentalists warned that the ambitious project was being badly undermined.
The Ross Sea marine protected area that the two governments proposed last year was to have set aside about 875,000 square miles of the Southern Ocean where commercial fishing would be sharply limited. The area’s relatively pristine ecosystem is crucial to the survival of thousands of species, including whales, seals and penguins, as well as the small fish and crustaceans on which they depend.
On Friday, though, New Zealand announced that the overall size of the proposed reserve was being reduced by 40 percent to gain the support of member nations on the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the international body that sets conservation policy for the Southern Ocean, of which the Ross Sea is a part. Commission delegates are scheduled to meet next month in Hobart, Australia, to consider the proposal.