The establishment of a marine protected area (MPA) in the Antarctica’s Ross Sea has been agreed during the Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

All Member countries have agreed to a joint USA and New Zealand proposal to establish a 1.55m km2 area of the Ross Sea with special protection from human activities.

"This has been an incredibly complex negotiation which has required a number of Member countries bringing their hopes and concerns to the table at six annual CCAMLR meetings as well as at intersessional workshops,” said Andrew Right, CCAMLR executive secretary.

He added: "A number of details regarding the MPA are yet to be finalised but the establishment of the protected zone is in no doubt and we are incredibly proud to have reached this point.”

The new MPA will to come into force in December 2017 and is expected to limit certain activities in order to meet specific conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring and fisheries management objectives.

This decision to establish a Ross Sea MPA follows CCAMLR's establishment of the first high-seas MPA, the South Orkney Islands southern shelf MPA, a region covering 94 000 km2 in the south Atlantic.

Mr Wright continued: “This decision represents an almost unprecedented level of international cooperation regarding a large marine ecosystem comprising important benthic and pelagic habitats.”

"It has been well worth the wait because there is now agreement among all Members that this is the right thing to do and they will all work towards the MPA's successful implementation.”

MPAs aim to provide protection to marine species, biodiversity, habitat, foraging and nursery areas, as well as to preserve historical and cultural sites.

By Alice Mason