World’s largest marine park created in Ross Sea in Antarctica
EU and 24 countries sign long-awaited agreement to protect 1.1m sq km of water in Southern Ocean, ensuring that fewer younger fish will be caught.
A landmark international agreement to create the world’s largest marine park in the Southern Ocean has been brokered in Australia, after five years of compromises and failed negotiations.
More than 1.5m sq km of the Ross Sea around Antarctica will be protected under the deal brokered between 24 countries and the European Union. It means 1.1m sq km of it – an area about the size of France and Spain combined – will be set aside as a no-take “general protection zone”, where no fishing will be allowed.
. . . It is the first marine park created in international waters and will set a precedent for further moves to help the world achieve the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s recommendation that 30% of the world’s oceans be protected.
The Antarctic protections had been urgently sought because of the importance of the Southern Ocean to the world’s natural resources. For example, scientists have estimated that the Southern Ocean produces about three-quarters of the nutrients that sustain life in the rest of the world’s oceans. The region is also home to most of the world’s penguins and whales.
The Ross Sea is a deep bay in the Southern Ocean 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 protections will not decrease the total amount of fish that are allowed to be caught in the Ross Sea, but it will move the industry away from the most crucial habitats close to the continent itself.
Russia has an industry catching antarctic toothfish there and the changes will push the fleet into waters where they will catch fewer immature fish, and where they won’t compete with as many orcas, who also rely on toothfish for food.
The agreement also establishes a large 322,000 sq km “krill research zone” that will allow for research catching of krill, but prohibit toothfish catching. Additionally, a 110,000 sq km “special research zone” will be established on the outside of the no-take zone, allowing catching of krill and toothfish only for research purposes.
. . . But the expiry of the protections in 35 years was a significant compromise. It came after five years of failed negotiations, with opposition from China and Russia which have fishing industries in the region.
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World’s largest marine park created in Ross Sea in Antartctica in landmark deal
By Michael Slezak
28 October 2016