A New Zealand bid to establish the world's largest marine reserve in Antarctica is a step closer after China agreed to support the project.
China is understood to be one of several countries which has previously blocked attempts to create the massive reserve in the Ross Sea, 3500km south of New Zealand.
In order to secure its support, New Zealand was revising plans for the marine protected area (MPA), and would allow some research fishing to take place.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said this morning that China's support was a "major step forward" in attempts to get a consensus for the MPA among the 25 countries which make up the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
Just one country's no-vote could derail the joint New Zealand-US project.
The revised proposal increased the size of the MPA from 1.34 million sq km to 1.5 million sq km, of which 1 million sq km was a no-take zone.
The proposal also included a proposal for an Antarctic krill research zone.
"This new addition to the proposed MPA is designed to promote research and scientific understanding of krill in the north western Ross Sea region," Mr McCully said.
The minister said Russia had also confirmed it was open to working with member states on an MPA ahead of the next CCAMLR meeting in 2016.
Like China, Russia has blocked the New Zealand proposal at past meetings.
Japan and Norway have also expressed concern about the permanence of the reserve, which prompted New Zealand officials to add a 50-year "sunset clause" which would allow it to be revised or scrapped.
The proposed MPA was originally 2.24 million sq km but was pared back in 2013 in a bid to gain support.
The Ross Sea is known as the "Last Ocean" because it is the only intact marine ecosystem on earth, mostly untouched by pollution, overfishing, and invasive species.