New Zealand welcomes new marine protected area

Ross Sea

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters lauded on Thursday the set-up of Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Southern Ocean.

The Ross Sea region MPA, which comes into effect on Dec. 1, is the result of a joint New Zealand-United States initiative, and will protect an area of the Southern Ocean that is teeming with life, Peters said.

“The Southern Ocean is one of the world’s most pristine marine environments. It has an unbroken food-chain and still has a full suite of top-level predators such as whales, seals and penguins,” Peters said, adding that the Ross Sea region MPA is 1.55 million square km, or six times the size of New Zealand.

“Getting unanimous agreement to create this marine protected area is a significant achievement,” he said.

New Zealand will continue to work with others to ensure that this marine protected area contributes to scientific understanding of the Southern Ocean and the role it plays in regulating the global climate, which includes significant investment by the New Zealand government in scientific study in the Ross Sea region, Peters said.

“New Zealand is committed to protecting this environment for the benefit of future generations, and maintaining Antarctica and the Southern Ocean for science, conservation and peace,” the foreign minister said.

The Marine Protected Area was agreed in October 2016 with the consensus of all 25 members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which was established by an international convention in 1982 with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life.

A joint proposal for a marine protected area in the Ross Sea region was first made by New Zealand and the United States in 2012.