The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) decided on the creation of the largest marine natural reserve, close to Antarctica, around the Ross sea area last October. The Ross Sea is largely untouched by humans, for now the least altered marine ecosystem on Earth, which make it ideally suited for investigating life in the Antarctic and how fishing and climate change are affecting the planet. The Marine Protected Area will come into force in December 2017, and will be covering an area (1.55 million km²) roughly equivalent to France, Spain, and Germany combined. Seventy-two percent of the Marine Protected Area will be a ‘no-take’ zone, with no commercial fishing, while other sections will permit some commercial harvesting of fish and krill while undertaking scientific research. The Ross Sea nutrient-rich waters are some of the most productive in the Antarctic, leading to huge plankton blooms, supporting krill- and fish-based food webs. The MPA will support important feeding areas for seals, penguins, and whales. Several MESOPP partners have been involved in the many meetings and complex negotiations.
The protection of such an area around Antarctica had been urgently sought also because of the importance of the Southern Ocean to the world’s natural resources. Field methods, monitoring and modeling of the key mid-trophic levels through MESOPP activities should contribute to improve our knowledge on this Antarctic region and on the behavior and ecology of many large predator species. This work will also contribute to investigating how these marine ecosystems change under the impacts of climate warming and the exploitation of marine resources.