The world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) covers the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. New Zealand, together with the United States, played a key role in creating it.
Head directly south from New Zealand for 3000 kilometres and you’ll arrive at the Ross Sea. It’s a vast, pristine stretch of the Southern Ocean that’s been called the “least altered marine ecosystem on Earth".
Unusually among the world’s seas, it is still home to an unbroken food chain – from its full suite of predators, like killer whales and Weddell seals, down to microscopic plankton species.
On 1 December 2017, a watershed agreement to protect the area came into force and New Zealand played a critical role in the new protections for the Ross Sea.
It’s a breakthrough for the Southern Ocean – and it’s a powerful model for how countries can agree on protections for international waters.
About 1.12 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea region MPA is fully protected. An area nearly half that size again allows limited, carefully monitored fishing. This allowance was necessary to secure the agreement – and it will also improve understanding of how sustainable fishing affects the region's ecosystem.
New Zealanders and people around the world can celebrate a unique and historic agreement – a deal made between 24 countries and the EU to protect one of the world’s most spectacular stretches of water.
It shows what’s achievable with sound scientific evidence and persistent diplomacy – even when the odds look long. We think it's something the world can take pride in.
For more information and to read the full story check out the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.