World's largest marine reserve established as Marine Sanctuary

Enlarge image (© picture alliance/dpa) A highly significant step towards global marine protection has been achieved by New Zealand and 25 countries, among them Germany. All parties agreed in creating the world's largest marine sanctuary of over a 1.55 million km2 in Antarctica's Ross Sea. 

. After 6 years of lengthy and difficult negotiations, all 25 members finally jointly accepted the proposal put forward by Germany and New Zealand on creating the world's largest marine sanctuary in the Ross Sea at the 35th meeting of the CCAMLR in Hobart, Tasmania. 

The Ross Sea, a deep bay of the Southern Ocean in Antarctica between Victoria Land and Marie Byrd Land, with Ross Island to the west of the sea and Roosevelt Island to the east. It is located about 200 miles (320km) from the South Pole.

The area covers 1,55 million km² and is situated approximately 4000 km south of New Zealand.  Over half of the area is covered permanently by a thick layer of ice - the Ross Shelf. 

The nutrient-laden waters support an abundance of plankton and this allows for a rich variety of marina life. Ross Sea is home to about 14.000 animal species, among them whales, dolphins, penguins, seabirds and seals. The marine sanctuary is designated purely for research.  At least ten mammal species, six bird species and 95 fish species are found here, as well as many invertebrates. 

Though the sea remains relatively untouched it is under constant threat of human activities. The underlying rocks are of upper Precambrian to lower Paleozoic age and are partly composed of calcium carbonate. The circulation of the Ross Sea is dominated by a wind-driven ocean gyre and the flow is strongly influenced by three submarine ridges that run from southwest to northeast. The circumpolar deep water current is a relatively warm, salty and nutrient-rich water mass that flows onto the continental shelf at certain locations.

In the west of the Ross Sea is Ross Island with the Mt. Erebus volcano, in the east Roosevelt Island. The southern part is covered by the Ross Ice Shelf. Roald Amundsen started his South Pole expedition in 1911 from the Bay of Whales, which was located at the shelf. In the west of the Ross sea, McMurdo Sound is a port which is usually free of ice during the summer. The southernmost part of the Ross Sea is Gould Coast, which is approximately two hundred miles from the Geographic South Pole.ternational co-operation in the fields of marine biology and oceanographic research.