Twenty-four nations and the EU reached an historic agreement on 30 October 2016 to protect 617,000 square miles of ocean, about six times the size of the UK. The creation of the Ross Sea Marina Protected Area in Antarctica makes it the largest marine protected area. Fishing will be banned in 72% of the area (the ‘no-take zone’) and limited in the rest of the area.
The Ross Sea is home to some 38% of the world’s Adelie penguins, 6% of Antarctic minke whales, around 30% of Antarctic petrels and about a quarter of the world’s Emperor penguins. Krill is one of the most important fish in the sea and a staple for whales and seals.
The deal has come about following six years of negotiations amongst the members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. This includes 24 countries and the European Union. Their decisions have to be unanimous which, of course, can present a stumbling block to agreement. Indeed, the proposal had already been rejected five times since 2012. The agreement was only reached after Russia dropped its objections following some alterations to the boundaries to the reserve and an increase in the fishing quotas permitted outside the no-take zone.
The agreement will come into force in December 2017 and is set to last 35 years.
Our new Antarctica Revealed website provides a comprehensive guide to the full range of Antarctic cruises and expeditions to the ice continent, the coldest, driest and windiest place on the planet, 98% of which is covered by ice that is at least a mile thick.