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New Marine Protected Area declared near Antarctica

April 8, 2010

As more and more information comes out about which fish are okay to eat and which populations have been decimated to the point where they may not recover, I can’t help but think that we’re depleting our oceans’ resources. It’s a scary to think about how pollution and overfishing are changing our oceans when we are still exploring our oceans and discovering new species and new wildlife so often.

So it comes as great news that The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources just declared a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) near the South Orkney Islands in the Southern Ocean. It will be effective as of May this year and covers an area of 94,000 sq kilometers (a little over 36,000 square miles). It’s reported that fishing, discharge and refuse disposal from ships will all be banned in the hopes of conserving areas key to albatross, seabirds and penguins.

This particular area near Antarctica is also key to protecting and observing krill populations. Krill are only 2-3 centimeters in size, but play arguably the most important role in the Antarctic food chain. They are typically found in large groups, anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 krill per cubic meter. They flourish near Antarctica because of the 24-hour summer sunlight and the ocean upwellings which bring vital nutrients towards the surface.

The abundance of krill sustains all kinds of other life including seals, penguins, fish, whales and many species of seabirds. It’s incredible to think that one of the biggest creatures on earth, a whale, can survive on 2-3 cm krill, but it’s true!

The MPA will be used for research and comparison, and hopefully we will learn a lot more about our oceans and how to fish them sustainably.

photo via flickr dixie_law; krill photo via cool antarctica

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