Despite a proposal for a large Antarctic marine reserve failing for a third time, the New Zealand government says its US-backed plan is gaining momentum.
The plan for a Ross Sea reserve was presented to a meeting of the 25 member Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) group in Hobart, but Russia, the Ukraine and China blocked it.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said despite another failed attempt, engagement by member nations was constructive and the plan was gaining momentum.
"All countries were at the table and negotiating," he said.
New Zealand proposed a marine protection area (MPA) of 1.32 million square kilometres for the Ross Sea, with a 1.25 million sq km no-fishing zone.
The proposal, which is backed by the US, was a scaled down version from an initial 2.3 million sq km marine protection area.
New Zealand authorities scaled back the plan, hoping a compromise would win more support.
The Ross Sea plan was one of two MPAs shut down at the meeting, with a proposal backed by Australia, France and the EU for an East Antarctic marine protection network of 1.6 million sq km also blocked.
"Getting every country in CCAMLR to agree was always going to be a challenge, but the growing momentum behind the proposal gives real reason to hope that the last few reluctant members will eventually offer their support," Mr McCully said.
"We have made huge strides since last October when the proposal was first presented. Many more countries now actively support the proposal in its revised form."
The campaign to create the marine reserve will continue, with a proposal presented once again at next year's meeting, Mr McCully said.
Supporters of the proposals say the area is crucial for scientific research, both for studying how intact marine ecosystems function and for determining the impacts of global climate change.