Antarctica's Getting the World's Largest Marine Reserve

Science News Climate Change
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Looks like all the Shamus can finally be free—at least for the next few decades. Last week, 24 countries came together to vote the Ross Sea in Antarctica as being a Marine Protected Area (MPA) for the next 35 years. As of December 1, 2017, all commercial fishing is banned from 528,000 square-miles worth of water, which is more than twice the size of Texas.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has been debating Ross Sea’s protection for decades. New Zealand and the U.S. first proposed the idea in 2011. Due to their interests in deep-sea fishing and mining, China and Russia were a little slow to agree finally agreed last year and Russia just last week.

“This is a major step in marine conservation not just for the Antarctic but internationally,” said Evan Bloom, head of the United States delegation, told The New York Times.

The Ross Sea is home to more than 16,000 species, including krill and plankton, which base the food chain for animals such as orcas and emperor penguins. Seventy-two percent of the MPA will be completely banned from any kind of fishing while the rest of the area will be used for scientific research.

“This enables scientists to research the relative impacts of fishing and other changes, such as those arising from climate change,” the CCAMLR stated on their website. “This can help our understanding of the range of variables affecting the overall status and health of marine
ecosystems.”

The Ross Sea will only be the second-ever MPA deal-to-establish-worlds-largest-marine-reserve on the high seas and is known as “The Last Ocean” due to its isolation from human activity. Maybe this ecological safe-haven will inspire nations to keep it from truly being the “last.”

McGee Nall is a travel intern with Paste and a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.

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