It’s an agreement five years in the making, but a deal has finally been struck to protect more than 1.5 million square kilometers of the Ross Sea surrounding Antarctica. The area, home to most of the planet’s penguins and whales, will become the largest marine park in the world. Fishing of any kind will be prohibited, protecting the most delicate coastal habitats and food supplies for wildlife.

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A collection of 24 nations and the European Union came to an agreement to designate the area a “general protection zone,” which will expire in 35 years. Not only will the marine park be the largest in the world, but it is also the first established in international waters. “We’ve been working towards this for many years,” US state department representative Evan Bloom told The Guardian. “It’s taken time to get consensus but now we have established the world’s largest marine protected area.”

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The Ross Sea is considered to be one of the last complete ecosystems on the planet, where three quarters of oceans’ water-sustaining nutrients are produced. This draws plenty of researchers, who will conduct studies on krill and toothfish in designated zones in the park. Research in these areas could provide clues for how climate change is affecting vulnerable parts of the world.

The negotiations did not come easily, as there were objections from nations who have a stake in Antarctic fishing industries. Russia’s opposition of the 50-year protection proposal threw a wrench in the operation and China’s fishing presence made the final deal difficult to broker. However, there are many, like Andrea Kavanagh, director of Antarctic and Southern Ocean work for the Pew Charitable Trusts, who are confident the protections will be renewed at the end of the expiration period. She said, “I’m positive that in 35 years, the conservation values that come out of the Ross Sea, the protections will be renewed. The world will be a different place in 35 years.”

Via The Guardian

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