A Kiwi film-maker's efforts to highlight threats to "the last ocean" have been winning international laurels as pressure mounts on nations to protect the Ross Sea from commercial fishing.

Peter Young has been touring the US with his documentary The Last Ocean, which explores the race to save one of the planet's last intact marine eco-systems.

Mr Young's stateside campaigning comes before international talks in Germany next month, after a 25-nation conference last year failed to approve a proposal that would have created the world's largest marine reserve and better protected the Ross Sea's stocks of Antarctic toothfish, marketed as Chilean sea bass in North America.

The fishery is worth an annual $20 million in exports to New Zealand companies alone, but Mr Young and other advocates want fishing banned there to preserve the sea's delicate ecology.


His film has been selling out cinemas and has won several awards. It is being promoted in 24 countries in seven languages and has been released online in a video-on-demand format on Distrify and i-Tunes.

"We screened in New York recently and no one knew about Chilean sea bass and where it comes from," Mr Young told the Herald from Seattle.

"I've screened all over the States and the thing that really strikes me is that it's such a revelation."

He had been heartened that US supermarket chain Whole Foods recently followed another grocery outlet, Safeway, in choosing not to sell Chilean sea bass from the Ross Sea.

"It's a major step. They are two of the biggest supermarket brands in the US."

At a screening of the film in March, US Secretary of State John Kerry signalled support for a New Zealand-US proposal for the Ross Sea.

The proposal involves a 2.27 million sq km protected area involving a tag-and-release programme on the continental shelf of the Ross Sea, where the highest concentration of Antarctic toothfish is found.

"If it goes through, it will be a good first step, but there's still a really long way to go to what should be really happening in the Ross Sea," Mr Young said.

The success of the talks in Germany may rest heavily on fishing nations Russia, China and Ukraine, which held out on an agreement last year.