Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area

On October 27, 2016 the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) approved the creation of the world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) and the first MPA in international waters in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. Based on a proposal co-sponsored by the United States and New Zealand, the new Ross Sea MPA will safeguard 1.55 million square kilometers (598,000 square miles) – an area nearly twice the size of the state of Texas – of one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet.

The Ross Sea Region MPA protects a rich and productive ecosystem that, unlike most other ocean areas, has thriving, intact communities of top predators, including whales, seals, penguins, and sea birds. In addition to its conservation value, the MPA is also designed to be a natural laboratory and reference area for scientific study of the impacts of climate change and fishing. The Ross Sea is home to U.S. McMurdo Station, the largest research station in Antarctica and the base for critical scientific study.

Specifically, the MPA:

  • protects 1.55 million square km of which 1.12 million sq km (72 percent) are fully protected;
  • will be in force for 35 years until 2052; and
  • includes three zones (see map):
    • the General Protection Zone where no commercial fishing is allowed (about 72 percent of the MPA);
    • the Krill Research Zone (about 21 percent of the MPA) designed to allow regulated fishing for krill only; and 
    • the Special Research Zone (about 7 percent of the MPA), in which limited fishing is allowed.
Map shows the Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area, including the boundaries of the General Protection Zone (GPZ), Special Research Zone (SRZ) and Krill Research Zone (KRZ). State Dept Image.

Figure 1: The Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area, including the boundaries of the General Protection Zone (GPZ), Special Research Zone (SRZ) and Krill Research Zone (KRZ).