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Antarctic Bay to Become the World's Largest Marine Reserve

Oct 31, 2016 04:29 AM EDT

A large area in the Antarctic, nearly as big as Alaska, will soon become the world's largest marine reserve after all member countries of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) reached an agreement putting the Antarctic Bay under special protection from human activities.

The new marine protected area (MPA) will be established in a 600,000 square miles of the waters of the Ross Sea, which is considered to be one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world. According to CNN, about 50 percent of ecotype-C killer whales, 40 percent of Adelie penguins and 25 percent of emperor penguins live in the area that will become MPA.

The Agreement between 24 nations and the European Union was made five years after the initial proposal. Under the new agreement, which will take effect in December 2017, certain human activities will be limited or prohibited in the MPA to meet specific conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring and fisheries management objectives.

"This decision represents an almost unprecedented level of international cooperation regarding a large marine ecosystem comprising important benthic and pelagic habitats," said Andrew Wright, Executive Secretary of CCAMLR, in a press release. "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."

Under the proposed agreement, about 72 percent of the MPA will be considered as "no take zone," which means all kinds of fishing activities are prohibited. The remaining 28 percent of the 600,000 square miles will be used for scientific research. In these areas, scientists are allowed to take samples of fish and krill to further study the marine ecosystem of the region.

Despite the importance of the marine protected area, which provides pristine sanctuary for endangered marine species and living laboratory for scientists, the agreement will only last for 35 years.

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