This Friday a historic agreement was reached between 24 countries and the European Union regarding Antarctica’s waters. The ocean waters near the frozen continent are home to diverse marine wildlife. The decision will create a marine reserve in the oceanic waters near the continent. Also, the Antarctica marine reserve is going to be the largest marine protected area in the world.
It took years of diplomatic talks between the many countries that had to sign off on the project. High-level talks between the United States and Russia took place. Since Russia initially rejected the idea of a marine reserve.
Countries Agree on Setting Up Marine Reserve
Environmentalists are happy at the announcement of the agreement. Those who supported the idea of the marine reserve say that this sets a positive precedent in cooperation. The area of ocean that is going to become a protected area does not fall under the jurisdiction of any single country. So, multiple countries had to work together on the provisions for the future marine reserve. A positive outcome in the negotiations process brings hope for the future of the remaining wildlife on the planet.
Wildlife, meaning terrain that has not been developed or improved by human activity, is covering less and less of the planet. There are fewer and fewer places on Earth with intact nature. But this marine reserve next to the Antarctica is going to be largest expanse of ocean that will remain undeveloped. The area that the agreement covers is about two times the size of the state of Texas.
This week representatives of 24 countries plus the European Union met in Australia. The representatives had to reach a consensus about Antarctic fishing. This had posed problems in the past and put plans for the marine reserve on hold. The United States and New Zealand have been big supporters of the marine reserve since the beginning. In 2012, they submitted a joint proposal for protecting the area. But countries rejected it five times, before they could reach an agreement. Countries that had expressed concerns were the Ukraine, China and Russia.
The United States Expresses Enthusiasm
The protected area is going to covers 1.6 million square kilometers (617,000 square miles). For three quarters of that area there will be ban on commercial fishing. In the remaining parts of ocean waters there will be some commercial fishing. Throughout the entire protected area there will be a small amount of fishing for research purposes only.
Several countries carry out commercial fishing in the ocean waters surrounding Antarctica. They fish for toothfish that finds its way on the market as Chilean sea bass in North America.
The United States team has been pushing for the marine reserve with enthusiasm. One of the biggest supporters was the Secretary of State, John Kerry. In a statement, he expressed his views on marine conservation.
“The agreement will safeguard one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet — home to unparalleled marine biodiversity and thriving communities of penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and fish.”
Said Secretary of State John Kerry.
Image source: here.