New Zealand has brushed aside a US offer of cooperation over the establishment of a reserve which would protect the Antarctic Toothfish in the Ross Sea and submitted its own more conservative proposal.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully this afternoon announced New Zealand will submit a proposal for a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Ross Sea.

The proposal would be submitted tomorrow which is the deadline set by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the 25 nation group which manages fishing and conservation in Antartic waters.

"If successful, this will be the largest MPA anywhere in the world - nine times the size of New Zealand", Mr McCully said in a statement.


New Zealand had discussed the feasibility of a join proposal with the United States, "but each country will offer a separate proposal for CCAMLR's consideration," he said.

As late as last week, when speaking to Pacific leaders, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US continued to work with New Zealand on establishing Antarctic MPAs, including in the Ross Sea.

Environmental group the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) said competing proposals from NZ and the US reduced the chances of CCAMLR reaching an agreement which must come through consensus.

"Although the draft US-NZ proposal would have fallen short of what is necessary to protect the world's least impacted marine ecosystem, it would have included important conservation gains and improved on New Zealand's original proposal", Geoff Key of the AOA said.

Mr McCully said details of the New Zealand proposal, which was developed following consultation with environmental groups and the fishing industry as well as scientists and other CCAMLR members, would be released next week.