Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

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.’

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

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...

Geophoto

With guaranteed sunshine, bright blue skies and not a hint…

Oceans

A review of coral-saving methods is helping communities decide which…

Polar

A seven-year study of Patagonia’s ice sheets has revealed the…

Climate

The environmental impact of Bitcoin is higher than its virtual…

Geophoto

With a camera in everyone’s pocket, the once rarified world…

Climate

The idea of the Earth as a self-regulating, living organism…

Oceans

A temporary fishing ban has been imposed by the European…

Wildlife

A look at the contribution of hippos to the savannah…

Wildlife

The new app encourages young children to connect with the…

Energy

A type of panel has been invented that can generate…

Tectonics

In the 4th century BC, Aristotle proposed that earthquakes were…

Climate

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management pledges to achieve net…

Tectonics

Earthquakes from time immemorial have attracted the attention of the…

Tectonics

A planned kayaking expedition in Nepal took on a whole…

Tectonics

Scientists from Bristol University are working in conjunction with EDF…

Tectonics

In the 1930s, Charles Richter developed a simple scale for…

Tectonics

Researchers at Colombia University have answered a question that has…