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New Marine Protected Area in Antarctica's Ross Sea

Photos credited to: John Weller

The United States and 24 other countries have approved the creation of the world's largest marine protected area (MPA) to date in Antarctica's Ross Sea,  safeguarding one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet. Covering an area of 600,000 square miles in the Ross Sea, the new MPA will be protected from commercial fishing for 35 years.

"This week's announcement of the creation of a Marine Protected Area in the Antarctic is truly historic. Home to a variety of penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and fish, the Ross Sea is one of the most pristine places left in the world's ocean. This new designation, which took years of scientific research and international diplomacy, reflects the recognition of 25 governments that we have a shared responsibility to protect this unique place for future generations, said Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator.  "Our work is just beginning; through the establishment of a unique laboratory, we'll be able to investigate the impact of climate change, and other human activities, on our environment. I'm proud that NOAA's science, service, and stewardship are on the front lines of furthering our understanding of this remarkable part of the world." 

The MPA, initially proposed by the U.S. and New Zealand in 2012, was unanimously supported by representatives of 24 countries and the European Union.  CCAMLR, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, agreed to approve the MPA during its 35th annual meeting, which concluded on October 28, 2016, in Hobart, Australia. Over 1.5 million square kilometers of the Ross Sea around Antarctica will be protected, of which 1.1 million square kilometers will be a “general protection zone” where no commercial fishing will be allowed.

[A 1982 Convention established CCAMLR for the purpose of protecting and conserving the marine living resources in the waters surrounding Antarctica. The Convention is based upon an ecosystem approach to the conservation of marine living resources and incorporates standards designed to ensure the conservation of populations and the Antarctic marine ecosystem as a whole.]