An international commission announced a more than six years in the making historic deal at the end of October: the largest marine protected area in the world, more than twice the size of Texas, in the Ross Sea of Antarctica.

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It is also the first major reserve outside the jurisdiction of any country in non-territorial waters.  Although some limited research fishing will be allowed in about a quarter of the region, the agreement prohibits operation in more than 70 percent of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area at the beginning of December 2017.

Besides being home to penguins, seals and other famous Antarctic species, the Ross Sea is part of the larger Southern Ocean, which includes strong currents that channel nutrient-rich water to the other oceans of Earth. Mike Walker, Antarctic Ocean Alliance’s director and an observer at the conference where the deal was signed, said the protection of the Ross Sea is a victory for the world.

“If arboreal forests are the lungs of the planet…the Southern Ocean is its heart.”

– Mike Walker

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