Penguins, seals and whales abound.
In a landmark deal reached Friday, 24 countries helped establish the largest marine reserve in the world, located in Antarctica.
At 600,000 square miles of ocean—almost the size of Alaska—this enormous reserve will completely ban commercial fishing, and only 28 percent of the reserve will be used for research, the New York Times reported.
Beginning Dec. 1, 2017, the reserve will remain a conservation area for the next 35 years in what is being hailed as a hard-won victory for environmentalists and animal conservationists. Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, an intergovernmental body, made the decision unanimously.
“This is a major step in marine conservation not just for the Antarctic but internationally,” Evan Bloom, head of the U.S. delegation, told the Times.
The sanctuary is decades in the making as both China and Russia long lobbied against the idea, because both countries had interests in fishing and deep-sea mining. But after China agreed to the project last year and Russia came around just this week, the reserve was ready to launch.
The refuge is situated in the Ross Sea, a body of water often referred to as "the Last Ocean" for its remote location and lack of human contact. With water chockfull of nutrients, krill and plankton, the Ross Sea abounds with seals, penguins, whales and fish, according to National Geographic.
“This is important not just for the incredible diversity of life that it will protect, but also for the contribution it makes to building the resilience of the world’s ocean in the face of climate change,” Chris Johnson, WWF-Australia’s ocean science manager, told the Guardian.