The Ross Sea in Antarctica will become the world’s largest marine reserve on Friday, off-limits to any kind of wildlife or mineral extraction, after an international agreement to preserve and protect one of the planet’s most untouched ecosystems.
Soon to be designated a “no-take” zone, the Ross Sea’s diverse marine resources will be left alone. The area is an underwater paradise of biodiversity, home to many species whose numbers are quickly decreasing elsewhere, Christian Science Monitor reports.
The United Nations commission for marine conservation says that around half of the world’s type C killer whales can be found here, along with 40% of Adelie penguins, 30% of Antarctic petrel and 25% of emperor penguins.
Lewis Pugh, the UN patron for the oceans, says,
I’m absolutely overjoyed. This is a crucial first step in what I hope will be a series of marine protected areas around Antarctica, and in other parts of the High Seas around the world.
The deal is set for 35 years, which China thought was too long and advocates thought was too short, looking at the Ross Sea’s biodiversity.
It took five years of drawn-out negotiations between 24 U members and the European Union, hindered by Russia, whose delegates contended that there was not enough evidence to justify making the Ross Sea a conservation zone. Russian fishing boats currently make a livelihood from the regions sea bass. Antarctica also holds a special place in the nation’s history, as it was discovered in 1820 by a Russian mission.
Russia’s acquiescence to the agreement comes after China changed its mind on the proposal last year. The move is one of a handful of President Vladimir Putin’s conservationist actions. In September, the government expanded its Arctic National Park by around 18 million acres.
The efforts may also have been affected by diplomatic campaigns held by UN officials and conservation groups alike, including Pugh’s “Speedo diplomacy” awareness movement, and Archbishop of Capetown Desmond Tutu’s acknowledgment of Antarctica’s geopolitical significance. Tutu also pointed to the 1957 multi-nation agreement to turn the continent into an apolitical research zone. He says, “For me, Antarctica is a symbol of peace.”
Putin’s former chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, welcomed the agreement in a statement. Now the special representative for environmental protection, ecology and transport, Ivanov says, “Russia has a proud history of exploration and science in Antarctica. In this time of political turbulence in so many parts of the world, we are pleased to be part of this collaborative international effort to safeguard the Ross Sea.”