After yesterdays depressing news that we will possibly lose two-thirds of the worlds wildlife by 2020, were chalking this up as a big win for conservation.
The Ross Sea in Antarctica is to become the worlds largest marine protected region( MPA ), theCommission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resource( CCAMLR) has declared.
This means that around 1.57 million square kilometers( 600,000 square miles) of the Southern Ocean will be protected from commercial angling and drilling for the next 35 years, once the MPA comes into force in December 2017. Conservationists are hoping this is likely to be the first of many no-fish zones in international waters.
All 24 countries at the meeting held in Australia concurred unanimously to the designation. The Ross Sea may simply comprise about 2 percent of the Southern Ocean, but it is home to 38 percent of the worlds Adelie penguins and 6 percent of the oceans minke whales, as well as significant populations of seals, fish, krill, orcas, and petrels, to name only a few.
The sanctuary was first proposed back in 2011 but faced opposition from Russia. However, with President Putin proclaiming 2017 the Year of Ecology, they supported it this time around and the committee had a full house.
“This has been an unbelievably complex negotiation which has required a number of Member countries bringing their hopes and concerns to the table at six annual CCAMLR conferences, told CCAMLR Executive Secretary Andrew Wright in a statement.”A number of details regarding the MPA are yet to be finalized but the creation of the protected zone is in no doubt and we are incredibly proud to have reached this point.”
Although Antarctica itself has been protected by the Madrid Protocol since 1991, labeling it as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science, the areas around it have increasingly attracted commercial fishing fleets due to the abundance of krill, which is used for aquaculture, aquarium feeds, and fishing bait on a commercial scale.
Around 72 percent of the MPA will be a no-fishing zone, with the rest permitting some angling for scientific research. This allows researchers to compare these areas with those that are open for angling, in order to study the effects of commercial angling, climate change, and other variables that affect the overall status of marine ecosystems.
This news also arrives, instead serendipitously, on the 175 th anniversary of the Ross Sea's discovery.
“The Ross family are euphoric that our household legacy has been honored in the 175 th anniversary year since James first detected the Ross Sea, ” Phillipa Ross, great, great, great granddaughter to Sir James Clark Ross, after whom the Ross Sea is named, told the BBC.
However, conservationists are warning that this is really just the start.
This is a milestone for the conservation of Antarctica and the SouthernOcean, told Rod Downie, polar program director for wildlife charity WWF in a statement.The current measures only extend for 35 years. We want a permanent and agony agreement for future generations that will safeguard the whales, penguins, seals and thousands of other amazing species that live there.
The Ross Sea and Ice Shelf are included in the new marine protected area.Peter Hermes Furian/ Shutterstock