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Green groups press for Antarctic marine haven talks

PARIS -- Thirty environmental groups on Thursday issued a joint appeal for upcoming talks on establishing protected zones in the seas off East Antarctica to widen the scope of the marine haven.

The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA), gathering WWF, Greenpeace, Oceans 5 and other groups, said the plan had to be expanded given the importance of Antarctica's biodiversity.

“We are calling on (the meeting) to support the establishment of the world's largest network of marine reserves and marine protected areas in the ocean around Antarctica as a legacy for future generations,” said AOA chief Steve Campbell.

Twenty-four countries plus the European Union (EU) are to take part in a meeting in Hobart, Tasmania of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, or CCAMLR.

Running from Tuesday until Nov. 1, the meeting will debate proposals by Australia, France and the EU to set up a protected marine habitat off the coast of East Antarctica.

AOA said it was lobbying for additional areas to be added to this, including the East India and Prydz Gyre seamounts.

The region is home to big populations of penguins, seals and whales and also has unique seafloor features that nurture early links in the food chain, it said.

The CCAMLR was set up in 1982 with the goal of conserving Antarctic marine life in the face of rising demands to exploit krill, a key component in the ecosystem.

It permits fishing provided it is carried out “in a sustainable manner and takes account of the effects of fishing on other components of the ecosystem.”

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