Countries create largest marine reserve off Antarctica

Countries create largest marine reserve off Antarctica
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Twenty-four countries agreed Friday to create the world’s largest marine reserve off the coast of Antarctica.

The decision to implement the protections for the Ross Sea was unanimous at the Australia meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which includes representatives of the United States, Russia, the European Union and other major powers, The Associated Press reported

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The area south of New Zealand is 598,000 square miles. It is largely untouched by humans and is home to thousands of species including penguins, whales, seals and numerous fish species.

The Friday vote came four years after the United States and New Zealand first proposed the marine reserve. It was initially opposed by nations like Russia and China, but they eventually came around, with Russia being the final holdout, the AP said.

“This decision represents an almost unprecedented level of international cooperation regarding a large marine ecosystem comprising important benthic and pelagic habitats,” Andrew Wright, the commission’s executive secretary, said in a statement.

Evan Bloom, the United States’s representative to the commission, said he was “thrilled” with the agreement.

“We’ve been working on this for so many years and had so many disappointments trying to get here,” Bloom told AP. “This is a real win for marine conservation.”

Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe Memo: Warning signs flash for Trump on debates Divided country, divided church TV ads favored Biden 2-1 in past month MORE celebrated the reserve, saying it “will safeguard one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet — home to unparalleled marine biodiversity and thriving communities of penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and fish.”

Conservation groups also cheered the decision.

“This landmark decision represents the first time that nations have agreed to protect a huge area of the ocean that lies beyond the jurisdiction of any individual country and shows that CCAMLR takes its role as protector of Antarctic waters seriously,” Andrea Kavanagh, director for Antarctic and Southern Ocean at Pew Charitable Trusts, said in a statement.