A high-level Antarctic conservation meeting has been launched to consider proposals on declaring swathes of the continent's surrounding Southern Ocean as "marine protected areas", in order to protect thousands of polar species. 

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, comprised of delegations from 24 countries and the European Union, officially started talks in the Australian city of Hobart on Tuesday.

The region is home to big populations of penguins, seals and whales found nowhere else in the world, and also has unique seafloor features that nurture early links in the food chain, according to environmental groups.

If the proposals are adopted, there would be fishing bans or restrictions for millions of square kilometres of ocean and ice.

Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas reports from Hobart.

Source: Al Jazeera