Mike Walker, Project Director of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, said the deal was an important milestone for ocean conservation, but urged countries to go further.
“For the first time, countries have put aside their differences to protect a large area of the Southern Ocean and international waters,” Mr Walker said.
“The limited 35-year restriction for protection of the Ross Sea contradicts the scientific advice that marine protection should be long-term. Nevertheless, we are confident that the significant benefits of protecting the Southern Ocean will soon be clear and the international community will act to safeguard this special place long into the future.”
The Ross Sea is one of the last intact marine ecosystems in the world, home to penguins, Weddell seals, Antarctic toothfish, and a unique type of killer whale. The region is critical for scientific research, for studying how marine ecosystems function and understanding the impacts of climate change on the ocean. Millions of people around the world have joined the global call for large-scale marine protection in Antarctica.
"This is a victory for the whales, toothfish, and penguins that live in the Ross Sea, as well as for the millions of people who supported this effort," said John Hocevar, a marine biologist with Greenpeace.
“We urge the international community to take notice and designate additional, permanent protections in other areas of the Antarctic Ocean and around the world.”
European Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Karmenu Vella, also expressed his deep satisfaction with the result: "The establishment of the first major Marine Protected Area in Antarctic waters is not just an important step for CCAMLR, but also a significant milestone in the European Union's push for comprehensive and more effective international ocean governance. I hope today's decision prepares the ground for the other protected areas which have been proposed by the EU, such as the Weddell Sea and East Antarctica."