World’s biggest marine protected area announced in Antarctica

The Antarctic Ocean Alliance just announced the creation of a marine protected area (MPA) in the Ross Sea, a deep bay in the Southern Ocean in Antarctica. Spanning 1.55 million square kilometres, with a 1.1 million-square-kilometre no take zone, this MPA is over twice the size of France and the biggest in the world.

The Ross Sea is home to 95 species of fish and more than a third of the world’s Adélie penguins, among hundreds of other Antarctic species. In 2008, researchers from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis named the Ross Sea the most pristine ecosystem left on earth – due to its isolated location, removed from human pollution.

The international waters surrounding Antarctica are essential for the survival of a diverse range of marine wildlife, but they are being increasingly threatened by industrial fishing and commercial whaling. Since 2009, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), comprised of the European Union and 24 other member nations, has been working to establish marine protected areas in these waters. Because marine protected areas must be agreed upon through a consensus vote, their creation is often challenging and slow.

Through its Protecting Antarctica programme, Oceans 5, an Oak partner that commits its resources to defending the world’s oceans and improving global marine health, has partnered with the Antarctica Ocean Alliance and the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition. Together they have been campaigning for the successful establishment of new marine protected areas in various parts of Antarctica, including the Ross Sea, East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea and along the Antarctic Peninsula. They have built a network of international conservation organisations in CCAMLR nations and engage in progressive research and advocacy to raise awareness about ocean protection. Today, their efforts have paid off.

Oak Foundation congratulates Oceans 5, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance and marine organisations everywhere whose work has allowed the Ross Sea to become protected. Thank you also to the CCAMLR member governments for their commitment to ocean conservation. For more information about Oceans 5’s initiatives and to support its work in establishing MPAs across the world, visit http://oceans5.org/.

Watch this video to find out about the Antarctic Ocean Alliance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDDhBjmGFNI&feature=youtu.be

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Copyright: National Geographic/Getty Images