ANTARCTIC — At the 35th annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) last month, the United States and 24 other government entities approved to preserve Antarctica’s Ross Sea. The newly protected area of the Ross Sea measures 598,000 square miles, making it the world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA).
“The High Seas represent 45 percent of the Earth’s surface. But they are largely unprotected and are facing rampant overfishing. This is a crucial first step in what I hope will be a series of MPAs around Antarctica, and in other parts of the High Seas around the world,” said Lewis Pugh, the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP, or UN Environment) Patron of the Oceans.
Antarctic is known for plankton and krill, a major food source for vast numbers of fish, seals, penguins, and whales in the area. The toothfish, also referred to as Chilean Sea Bass, is the main commercially valuable fish. The decision to declare Antarctica’s Ross Sea as MPA prohibits industrial fishing. This declaration will be in effect for the next 35 years as agreed upon by the CCAMLR.
The Ross Sea is considered “one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet.” Plans are in place to keep it that way with possibly more MPAs to come. The new protection will go into force on Dec. 1, 2017.