At the end of October 2016, 24 countries and the European Union came to an agreement to create the world's biggest marine park, which will cover more than 1.55 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea around Antarctica — the announcement is one of the top ocean conservation stories this year.
The new marine protected area (MPA) is predicted to come into force in December 2017, and the international agreement was reached at the meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Australia.
"This has been an incredibly complex negotiation," CCAMLR executive secretary Andrew Wright said. "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 new MPA is significant, not only because it's the first marine park created in international waters, but also because scientists have estimated that the Southern Ocean provides approximately three quarters of the nutrients required to sustain marine life in the rest of the world's waters.
"This decision represents an almost unprecedented level of international cooperation regarding a large marine ecosystem comprising important benthic and pelagic habitats," Wright said. "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."
MPAs are put in place to preserve the ecosystem in that location as well as to protect culturally and historically significant sites. They also aid underwater habitats by rebuilding fish stocks, supporting ecosystem processes, sustaining biological diversity and monitoring change.
An increasingly popular adventure destination, the newly agreed protection of the Ross Sea ecosystem is great news for anyone hoping to spend some time exploring Antarctica on a superyacht.