Last week, an agreement was reached by 24 nations and the European Union to establish the world's largest marine protected area, in the Ross Sea in Antarctica. The area, which will come under protection on Dec. 1, 2017, covers some 600,000 square miles of ocean, 28 percent of which will be designated as research zones. Commercial fishing will be banned throughout. Northeastern professor William Detrich, an expert in marine molecular biology and biochemistry, has led groundbreaking research on Antarctic fish. In March a small island near Palmer Station in Antarctica—where he's been making research trips for more than 30 years—was named in his honor. We asked him to explain the significance of establishing such a large reserve, what types of research will be conducted there, and how such a massive collaboration came about in the first place.
From a conservation perspective, what is the significance of establishing such a huge marine protected area in the Ross Sea in Antarctica? How does the reserve differ, besides its size, from other reserves?
Creation of an MPA ensures that the zone, in this case a substantial portion of the Ross Sea in Antarctica, is protected from human activities, such as commercial fishing. The overall goal of an MPA is to limit or prohibit harvesting activities to maintain and protect ecosystem processes and areas of ecological significance.