In a landmark international agreement, the largest marine protected area in the world was created in the Ross Sea, off the coast of Antarctica. At Ecophiles, we are delighted to share this news as this reserve almost as large as Alaska means a great win for its residents – whales, penguins, seals and toothfish.

Representatives of 24 nations and the European Union in Australia reached this agreement sealed by the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The Ross Sea sanctuary off the coast of Antarctica becomes the biggest marine protected area in the world, covering 1.55 million km2 (which is roughly the size of three Texases, two Spains, or one Mongolia), almost three quarters of which will be a fully-protected.

Known as ‘the Last Ocean’, the Ross Sea has been identified by scientists as the most pristine shallow ocean left on earth. The region is also home to most of the world’s penguins and whales. Seventy-two percent of the MPA will be a ‘no-take’ zone, which forbids all fishing, while other sections will permit some harvesting of fish and krill for scientific research.

A group of Adeli Penguins are seen here in the Antarctic sea ice of the Southern Ocean.

A group of Adeli Penguins are seen here in the Antarctic sea ice of the Southern Ocean

Areas closed to fishing, or in which fishing activities are restricted, can be used by scientists to compare with areas that are open to fishing. This enables scientists to research the relative impacts of fishing and other changes, such as those arising from climate change. This can help our understanding of the range of variables affecting the health of marine ecosystems.

The Ross Sea win comes as welcome news after President Obama’s recent decision to expand the Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument, making it – until now – the world’s largest marine protected area. A few days prior, Obama also made history by establishing the first National Marine Monument in the Atlantic, protecting canyons and seamounts. Chile’s creation of a massive marine park around Easter Island, and the UK’s commitment to create protected ‘Blue Belts’ around its overseas territories also protects marine waters.

We hope that this move sets an inspirational example for other sanctuaries to follow to protect our oceans. Not to mention, it shows that nations are actually capable of agreeing on eco-friendly and green policies!

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