We will use your email address only for sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights.
Beijing has already come under fire on the international stage for its aggression in the South China Sea, the introduction of a new security law in Hong Kong and handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Now experts fear President Xi Jinping is looking south, to the scientific haven of Antarctica, hoping to position itself as a global leader in the region with an international treaty. The global pact, signed 60 years ago, is dedicated to preserving and protecting the continent for scientific research and provides a safeguard against nuclear proliferation.
But Professor Klaus Dodds says some parts of the agreement need updating.
He told Express.co.uk: “In recent years there has been a growing recognition that the Southern Ocean needs more conservation protection.
“We had a resource regime in place that tried to regulate fishing, but with climate change there was a fear that if they didn’t introduce marine protected areas we would find fishing nations like China and Russia more active in the Southern Ocean.
“A couple of years ago, we got the Ross Sea marine protected area, that took a lot of work to get it agreed upon.
“Russia and China did not want to agree, but finally did.”
Three new Marine Protected Areas are being proposed by the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in the Weddell Sea, the East Antarctic, and the Antarctic Peninsula.
Together, the establishment of these new areas would expand Antarctic protections to include 20 percent of the Southern Ocean.
Prof Dodds added: “What we are looking at now is a proposal around the Antarctic Peninsula that has been put forward by Argentina and Chile to place further regulation and control over what fishing can be conducted.
“What countries are trying to do within the treaty is reprioritise conservation over exploration.
“It’s a balance between how much you can safely exploit and how far you can go – what’s making it harder is climate change having an effect.
“The ocean chemistry is changing, fish stocks are moving and migrating – things that were once found further away from the continent are migrating closer.”
To enact these new Southern Ocean restrictions, all 26 members of the CCAMLR’s international body must unanimously agree.
But based on their years of resistance to the Ross Sea agreement, Russia and China are expected to be against the new protections.
And Prof Dodds says there is cause for concern right now.
Black hole shock: Scientist’s dire warning to humans [VIDEO]
Asteroid apocalypse: Scientist warns of ‘city-destroying’ space rock [OPINION]
Why ‘Trillion tonne rock hurtling towards Earth’ was ‘bad news’ [EXPLAINED]
While the West has been busy focussing on the pandemic, Russia and China have maintained a continued presence on the continent and are reportedly pushing their luck for more access to fishing, oil reserves, and mining.
Prof Dodds continued: “Because of the pandemic there is no face-to-face diplomacy.
“In the Antarctic Treaty, everything is based around the idea of consensus and that is a lot harder to secure when you don’t see each other face-to-face.
“Everyone nods and puts their thumbs up to agree, now they have to do that over online meetings and it’s very hard to read the room.
“Also, in the past, we would have third party observers on fishing vessels making sure people were not cheating. It’s very easy to now say they don’t want anyone else on the boat.”
The treaty also bans military activity in Antarctica – military personnel and equipment may only be used for scientific research or any other peaceful purpose.
In 2018 a report found that there were 19 soldiers stationed in the Chilean Antarctic Territory, which partially overlaps both Argentine and British claims.
Prof Dodds revealed the real reason for them, before adding some countries have raised issues with the increasing presence.
He said: “The treaty does not prohibit the presence of military personnel.
“It says you are perfectly entitled to have military personnel there to help out with the logistical support for science.
“What you are not allowed to do is carry out military exercises.
“Of course, there have been complaints about some of the research stations now having too many military personnel, but to be fair, there is little evidence they have been used inappropriately.”
Instead, the expert pointed to an area of militarisation he thought was more worrying.
He added: “If there is a concern, it should be expressed over Chinese investment in communication systems which could be used for military purposes such as locating satellites.
“Some countries disagree with it more than others, but as long as there is no military activity, having people there is perfectly compatible with the treaty.
“Carrying weapons is not allowed.”
In 2048, several elements of the Antarctic Treaty will come up for contention, but Prof Dodds previously warned that the big players like China will “chip away” at the treaty well before then.
He explained: “In the next five to 10 years, a lot of this tension will make itself known, so there’s no point obsessing about dates on the treaty.
“What’s going on now is a source of concern, not what happens in 2048 – a lot of these things are already revealing themselves.
“We’ve got to stop thinking of these places as remote, unimportant or disconnected, they’re not – they are centre stage in global politics.
“Western countries want to hang on to the treaty, so what China will do is it will keep chipping away at the terms – in the sense of the collective will and determination of the others to try and block them – because they don’t want China to walk away, or Russia.”
Source: Read Full Article