Agreement on establishment of marine protected area in Antarctica

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‘I welcome the decision to establish a marine protected area in the Ross Sea in Antarctica. This is an important milestone in the international management of the Southern Ocean and in the conservation of marine resources,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

The decision to establish a marine protected area (MPA), which will be the largest in the world, was taken at this year’s meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, Australia. Norway has worked for years with the US and New Zealand and the other members of CCAMLR to achieve this.

‘The Antarctic is one of the world’s last undisturbed wilderness areas. It has taken many years and a lot of hard work to reach agreement on this MPA in the Ross Sea. Establishing MPAs is a complex process, and many different considerations have to be weighed against each other. The agreement we have now reached will give us a sound scientific, balanced and targeted framework for ensuring the conservation and sustainable harvesting of marine resources in this part of the Southern Ocean,’ Mr Brende said.  

The Ross Sea MPA is being established on the basis of the best available knowledge of the environment in the area and ensures a balance between the conservation and sustainable use of the area’s resources. Over the past five years, the proposal to establish an MPA in this area has been thoroughly scrutinised by the international research community. 

‘The new MPA in the Ross Sea will provide a good basis for the long-term conservation and sustainable harvesting of marine resources in the Southern Ocean,’ Mr Brende said. 

‘The natural environment of the Antarctic region is unique because almost all forms of life, from krill to whales and penguins, are closely associated with marine habitats. The decision to establish an MPA in the Ross Sea is a breakthrough in the work to protect the Antarctic’s unique and vulnerable natural environment and an important step in the development of international policy on the marine environment. MPAs are designed to provide long-term protection of valuable natural areas, and are an important element of an integrated marine management regime’, said Minister of Climate and Environment Vidar Helgesen.

The Ross Sea MPA will cover an area of 1.55 million km2, almost twice the size of the North Sea. An area of 1.12 million km2, or 72 % of the total area, will be a ‘no-take’ zone, in which all fishing is prohibited. Some fishing activities for scientific purposes will be permitted in other sections of the MPA.