World’s largest marine reserve — almost the size of Alaska — to be created on Antarctica coast

World’s largest marine reserve — almost the size of Alaska — to be created on Antarctica coast
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SYDNEY The worlds biggest marine reserve, almost as large as Alaska, will be established in the Ross Sea in Antarctica under an agreement reached by representatives of 24 nations and the European Union in Australia on Friday.

The policymakers and scientists agreed unanimously to create a zone that will encompass 965,600 square kilometresof ocean. Commercial fishing will be banned from the entire area, but 28 per cent of it will be designated as research zones, where scientists can catch limited amounts of fish and krill, tiny invertebrates that provide food for whales, penguins, seals and other animals.

This is a great result for quiet diplomacy and honest toil

The area, which is mostly contiguous and hugs the coast off the Ross Sea ice shelf, will come under protection Dec. 1, 2017, and remain a reserve for 35 years. The agreement was reached in Hobart, Tasmania, at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

This is a major step in marine conservation not just for the Antarctic but internationally, said Evan Bloom, head of the United States delegation.

Part of it is the size, but the significance of this is that most of the marine protected area is a no-take area, and that involved 25 countries and complex, long-term environmental negotiations, Bloom, a director of the State Departments Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs, said in a telephone interview.

Protecting the Ross Sea, in the Southern Ocean, had been on the commissions agenda for around six years, and conservationists had been arguing for a no-fishing zone there for a decade, said Andrea Kavanagh, a director of the Southern Oceans Sanctuaries Campaign at Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington.

Delegates from the United States and New Zealand first proposed the reserve, but the plan could not go forward without the approval of Russia, which was secured Friday.

Although the commission did not reduce the tonnage of fish that can be taken from the Ross Sea, vessels have been pushed further out to sea and away from ecologically significant sites that include breeding and feeding grounds for whales, large fish, penguins and other sea birds.

This is a great result for quiet diplomacy and honest toil, New Zealands foreign minister, Murray McCully, said in a telephone interview.
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