The largest marine protected area will be created in the Ross Sea in Antarctica after member countries have agreed to resolution of turning Ross Sea into an area with special protection. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, Australia held a meeting to decide on further steps for marine protection region in Ross Sea. The largest marine protected region will cover nearly 1.55 million square kilometers.
Commercial fishing and other activities will not be allowed in the region. The area will come into effect by December 2017 and all commercial activities will be halted by that time. Only scientific research projects will be allowed, the CCAMLR report informed.
CCAMLR Executive Secretary, Andrew Wright said that this is first major step towards saving the ecosystem in Ross Sea. Mr. Wright added, “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.”
The agreement was announced after a major roadblock created by Russia was removed. The agreement has been finalized between 24 nations and the European Union.
Ross Sea supports many species which have been facing decline in other parts of the world. The agreement has been termed as a major step for many species by environmentalists and people involved with the negotiations. As per the United Nations commission for marine conservation, nearly 50 percent of current type C killer whale population thrives in Ross Sea. It is also home to 40 percent of Adelie penguin population on the planet. It also supports emperor penguins and Antarctic petrels.
The negotiations continued for nearly five years and involved 24 United Nations members and the European Union. The region under conservation will be 600,000 square miles of ocean, almost as big as Alaska. Researchers will be able to carry out research in the region but commercial fishing will be completely banned.
Talking about the agreement, Lewis Pugh, UN patron for the oceans, said, “This is a crucial first step in what I hope will be a series of marine protected areas around Antarctica, and in other parts of the High Seas around the world.”
A report published by NorthEastern University informed, “A major benefit of the above restrictions is that scientists will be able to evaluate the effects of climate change on the Ross Sea ecosystem without the confounding and disruptive impacts of active fisheries for krill and toothfish. As one of a very few pristine marine ecosystems, the Ross Sea, under the MPA, will serve as a natural laboratory for assessing and forecasting climate change on Earth.”
CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee first endorsed the scientific basis for proposals for the Ross Sea region put forward by the USA and New Zealand in 2011. It invited the Commission to consider the proposals and provide guidance on how they could be progressed. Each year from 2012 to 2015 the proposal was refined in terms of the scientific data to support the proposal as well as the specific details such as exact location of the boundaries of the MPA. Details of implementation of the MPA will be negotiated through the development of a specific monitoring and assessment plan. The delegations of New Zealand and the USA will facilitate this process.
This year’s decision to establish a Ross Sea MPA follows CCAMLR’s establishment, in 2009, of the world’s first high-seas MPA, the South Orkney Islands southern shelf MPA, a region covering 94 000 km2 in the south Atlantic.
“This decision represents an almost unprecedented level of international cooperation regarding a large marine ecosystem comprising important benthic and pelagic habitats,” said Mr Wright.
“It has been well worth the wait because there is now agreement among all Members that this is the right thing to do and they will all work towards the MPA’s successful implementation,” he said.
MPAs aim to provide protection to marine species, biodiversity, habitat, foraging and nursery areas, as well as to preserve historical and cultural sites. MPAs can assist in rebuilding fish stocks, supporting ecosystem processes, monitoring ecosystem change and sustaining biological diversity.
Project for Largest Marine Protected Area in the Antarctica supported by CCAMLR – PerfScience