During the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, EU and 24 countries signed a landmark international agreement to create the world’s largest marine park in the Southern Ocean. More than 1.5m sq km of the Ross Sea around Antarctica – an area about the size of France and Spain combined – will be protected as a no-take “general protection zone”. The Ross Sea is a deep bay that many scientists consider to be the last intact marine ecosystem on Earth – a living laboratory ideally suited for investigating life in the Antarctic and how climate change is affecting the planet.
The agreement was long-awaited and arrived after five years of compromises and failed negotiations. Significantly, the protections are set to expire in 35 years.