Largest Protected Marine Habitat Set Near Antarctica

The Ross Sea Marine Protected Area, announced October 27th, 2016, is now the largest marine sanctuary in the world.

Source: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and The Pew Charitable Trusts

A 598,000 square mile area of wild ocean was protected today by an international coalition of 25 countries. The new Ross Sea Marine Protected Area sets aside habitat for emperor penguins, orcas, seals, whales, and 16,000 more species of marine life.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) announced the international agreement today. It protects an area in the Ross Sea, near the southeast coast of Antarctica, that is nearly the size of Alaska.

The member alliance, including the United States, European Union, and 23 other countries, unanimously supported the preserve. It was originally proposed by the U.S. and Australia in 2011.

Jillian Dempster (left, New Zealand) and Evan Bloom (center, USA) with CCAMLR Chair Vasily Titushkin (right) show a signed map of the Ross Sea MPA
Jillian Dempster (left, New Zealand) and Evan Bloom (center, USA) with CCAMLR Chair Vasily Titushkin (right) show a signed map of the Ross Sea MPA

“This decision represents an almost unprecedented level of international cooperation,” said Andrew Wright, CCAMLR Executive Secretary.

Many details, such as enforcement of regulations and penalties for violations that go into effect in December 2017, have yet to be finalized.

Ross Sea Protections: No Fishing

The Ross Sea remains largely untouched by human activities. It is home to an estimated 16,000 marine species and a high concentration of nutrients that sustain krill blooms.

Due partly to these blooms, a diverse ecosystem thrives there.

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72 percent of the protected area — more than 430,000 square miles — will be off-limits to fishing of any kind. Other areas will permit some harvesting of fish and krill for scientific research.

Photo credit: Cortto

The massive Ross Sea Marine Protected Area will now eclipse the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, designated by President Obama in August, as the world’s largest protected marine habitat.

Adam Ruggiero

Adam Ruggiero is the editor-in-chief of GearJunkie and a fan of virtually all sports and activities. From biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming — if it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.