I am delighted that after many years of negotiations, delegates from 24 countries and the European Union meeting in Hobart, Australia have agreed that the Ross Sea in Antarctica will become the world’s largest marine protected area (MPA).
Protecting parts of the ocean owned by multiple countries is not an easy thing to do, but this first-ever large scale Marine Protected Area on the high seas proves that collaborative international efforts can yield extraordinary results.
The new protected zone will help protect what’s said to be the Earth’s most pristine marine ecosystem and will be an incredible 1.55 million square kilometers in size (equivalent to the size of Spain, Germany and France combined), with 1.1 million of those square kilometers being fully protected.
The Ross Sea is one of the last intact marine ecosystems in the world, home to penguins, Weddell seals, Antarctic tooth fish, and a unique type of killer whale. The region is magical and unique, both breathtakingly beautiful and critical for scientific research on marine ecosystems. We need this to see how they function and to understand the impacts of climate change on the ocean.
This week’s agreement was reached after 6 years of discussion and negotiation. The proposal, introduced by New Zealand and the United States, and accepted by all the other nations, will see a general protection “no-take” zone where nothing can be removed including marine life, oil, gas and minerals. As part of the compromise that emerged in negotiations, there will however be special zones where fishing from krill and toothfish will be allowed for research purposes.