World’s Largest Marine Protected Area in Antarctica’s Ross Sea

Ross Sea, Antartica. Photo Credit: John Weller

The Commission for the Conservation of Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) on Friday approved the creation of a New Zealand/United States proposal to establish the world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. The Agreement will enter into force on December 1, 2017.

The Ross Sea Marine Protected Area covers 1.55 million square kilometers, of which 1.12 million square kilometers, or 72%, is fully protected and no fishing will be permitted.

According to the New Zealand government, “The agreement balances marine protection, sustainable fishing and science interests. These include important habitats and foraging areas for marine mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates, including iconic species in the region such as Weddell seals, killer whales and Emperor penguins.”

New Zealand and the United States first came together to propose the MPA in 2012 and have been working to gain agreement from CCAMLR’s 23 other members since. CCAMLR only makes decisions by consensus.

According to US Secretary of State John Kerry, “The new MPA adds 1.55 million square kilometers (598,000 square miles) in new ocean protection – an area nearly twice the size of the state of Texas. This designation — on top of the nearly 4 million square kilometers of newly protected ocean announced around the global Our Ocean conference the State Department hosted in September — makes 2016 a landmark year for ocean stewardship.”

Kerry said, “In addition to its tremendous conservation value, the Ross Sea MPA is designed to be a natural laboratory for valuable scientific research to increase our understanding of the impact of climate change and fishing on the ocean and its resources.”

Sources: Antarctica and Wikipedia Commons.