Creating the world’s largest Marine Protected Area

Lewis Pugh, out for a little swim in the Ross Sea Lewis Pugh, out for a little swim in the Ross Sea Kelvin Trautman
04 Nov
2016
A landmark decision has given the green light to creating the largest protected zone of ocean the world has ever seen

What is 1.55 million square kilometres large, home to emperor penguins, humpback whales and leopard seals, and is located in the Southern Ocean just off Antarctica? Answer: the Ross Sea, named after 19th century explorer James Ross – and soon to become the world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA).

‘This is a very big moment in the history of conservation,’ writes Lewis Pugh, endurance swimmer and the UN Patron of the Oceans. Pugh led a two-year campaign calling for the instigation of the Ross Sea MPA, including such extreme awareness-raising stunts as diving on three occasions into the freezing Ross Sea for a swim. He also spent much of those two years ‘shuttling back and forth to Russia’ in order to meet Russian officials and persuade them not to veto the creation of the Ross Sea MPA – something Russia had done on five previous occasions.

Today’s announcement shows that Antarctica continues to be a place for peace and bridge building, a place where we can find common ground

In recognition, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) recently met in Hobart, Australia, and took the decision to grant MPA status to the Ross Sea, an act that will come into force in December 2017. As Pugh points out, at a size that is larger than the UK, France, Germany and Italy combined, it becomes the largest such MPA in the world. 72 per cent of the area will become a ‘no-take’ zone – where all fishing is forbidden – while other sections will permit some harvesting of fish and krill for scientific research.

‘My hope is that we can create a series of MPAs in other critical areas around Antarctica including the Weddell Sea, the Antarctic Peninsula and East Antarctica,’ continues Pugh, who is keen to stress the significance of Russia, the EU and the US all agreeing on this decision, even at a time of geopolitical tension. ‘In 1959, at the height of the Cold War, Antarctica was set aside as place for peace and science. Today’s announcement shows that Antarctica continues to be a place for peace and bridge-building, a place where we can find common ground.’

penguinsThe Ross Sea is home to 40 per cent of the world’s Adélie penguins, and 25 per cent of the world’s emperor penguins (Image: Kelvin Trautman)

‘This decision represents an almost unprecedented level of international cooperation regarding a large marine ecosystem comprising important benthic and pelagic habitats,’ says Andrew Wright, CCAMLR’s Executive Secretary. ‘A number of details regarding the MPA are yet to be finalised, but the establishment of the protected zone is in no doubt and we are incredibly proud to have reached this point.’

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Oceans

East African countries are sharing shipping data in order to…

Wildlife

How many elephants can you see? How many orang-utans are…

Climate

The ocean floor is being deformed under the weight of…

Climate

Progress on halting warming has not been great throughout 2017.…

Oceans

Coral bleaching is widespread around the globe and as it…

Climate

Wales is the second best recycler in the world

Climate

A series of worrying reports by the Global Carbon Project…

Wildlife

While it was the impact on civilian populations that generated…

Oceans

For Sylvia Earle there is one over-riding threat to humanity…

Geophoto

Iceland is a sparsely populated country with one of the…

Wildlife

Baltic seals and fish-eating bird populations are increasing and could…

Oceans

The UN has committed to completely stopping plastic waste from…

Wildlife

The world’s most endangered marine mammal has just been thrown…

Climate

Sixty-two of the natural World Heritage Sites are now at…

Oceans

In February 2015, maritime lawyer and cold water swimmer Lewis…

Climate

Water, water may be everywhere, but as Marco Magrini discovers,…

Energy

A deeper look at Scotland’s recent decision to ban the…

Climate

The discovery of increasing levels of ozone-depleting compounds being emitted…

Geophoto

November is a dark, quiet month, but it also marks…

Energy

Could human waste one day be fuelling our homes and…