Huge Marine Protection Area greenlit for Antarctica's Ross Sea

The MPA is a victory for all animals which live in the Ross Sea, including whales, toothfish and penguins (John Weller / supplied)
The MPA is a victory for all animals which live in the Ross Sea, including whales, toothfish and penguins (John Weller / supplied)

Making history, a massive Marine Protection Area (MPA) in Antarctica's Ross Sea has just been established.

It's taken five years of negotiation to get to this point and now, from December 1 2017, 1.55 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea will be protected - the largest in the world.

Of the protected area, 1.12 million square kilometres will be a no-fishing zone.

Andrea Kavanagh, director of the The Pew Charitable Trusts' Antarctic and Southern Ocean work, says the decision shows CCAMLR is taking its role as protector of Antarctic waters seriously.

"CCAMLR made history today by declaring the world's largest marine protected area in the Ross Sea, protecting penguins, seals, whales and countless other creatures," she says.

Huge Marine Protection Area greenlit for Antarctica's Ross Sea

Last year's attempts to create an MPA in the Southern Ocean were stymied by Russia, who was this year chairing the meeting as part of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

Representatives from 25 nations attended meetings in Hobart, Australia this week to negotiate the MPA.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says New Zealand played a key role in reaching the agreement.

"[The MPA] will safeguard one of the world's remaining pristine natural environments," he says.

"The proposal required some changes in order to gain the unanimous support of all 25 CCAMLR members and the final agreement balances marine protection, sustainable fishing and science interests.

"The boundaries of the MPA, however, remain unchanged."

Ceisha Poirot, Antarctica New Zealand's environmental manager, says an international agreement for such a large area of the Southern Ocean is groundbreaking.

"It is essential to safeguarding the future of Antarctica," she says.

"Antarctica New Zealand is absolutely committed to protecting the Antarctic environment. The establishment of the world's largest marine protected area right on our doorstep is a significant achievement."

Ms Kavanagh commended New Zealand's work along with the US government in settling the deal, praising their "tireless work".

"This would not have been possible without Russia joining with other countries to achieve today's historic decision to protect the Ross Sea," she said.

"The governments of the United States and New Zealand should also be commended for their tireless work these past six years."

Antarctic Ocean Alliance's project director Mike Walker said earlier this week that now is the time for action to safeguard the continent's waters.

"It has been clearly established that fully protecting large parts of the ocean is critical to mitigating the effects of climate change," he said.

"CCAMLR members have an historic opportunity to designate marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, any further delay would negatively impact the health of the Antarctic's waters and the life they support."

The MPA is a victory for all animals which live in the Ross Sea, including whales, toothfish and penguins, Greenpeace's John Hocevar says.

"We urge the international community to take notice and designate additional, permanent protections in other areas of the Antarctic Ocean and around the world."

Two other proposed MPAs, in East Antarctic waters and the Weddell Sea, are still being discussed.

Newshub.

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