World’s largest marine park will be created in the Ross Sea in Antarctica in landmark deal
The European Union and 24 countries have reached a landmark international agreement to create the world’s largest marine park in the Southern Ocean, providing protection to 1.5 million square kilometers (0.6 million square miles) of the Ross Sea around Antarctica.
The area, which is mostly contiguous and hugs the coast of the Ross Sea ice shelf, will come under protection on Dec. 1, 2017, and remain a reserve for 35 years. The agreement was reached in Hobart, Tasmania, at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
The deal was rejected five times before this agreement, which came together only after Russia, the last holdout, dropped its objections.
The plan was initially put forward by New Zealand and the United States in 2012 but was opposed by China, Russia, and Ukraine, who were concerned about their fishing industries.
The New Zealand foreign minister, Murray McCully, said the final deal involved concessions to Russia including alterations to the boundaries of the reserve and increased fishing quota outside the no-take zone.
The Ross Sea is seen as one of the world’s most ecologically important oceans. The sanctuary will cover more than 12 percent of the Southern Ocean, which is home to more than 10,000 species including most of the world’s penguins, whales, seabirds, colossal squid and Antarctic toothfish.
Fishing will be banned completely in 1.1 million square km (425,000 square miles) of the Ross Sea, while areas designated as research zones will allow for some fishing for krill and sawfish. Scientists and activists described the agreement as a historic milestone in global efforts to protect marine diversity.
Andrea Kavanagh, the director of Antarctic and Southern Ocean work for the Pew Charitable Trusts, which has been working for years to achieve result, said: ‘CCAMLR made history by declaring the planet’s largest marine protected area in the Ross Sea.’
Evan Bloom from the US state department said, ‘It’s a really significant moment. We’ve been working towards this for many years. It’s taken a time to get consensus but now we have established the world’s largest marine protected area.’