Although East Antarctica may seem like a remote region, its ecological importance cannot be overstated. The Ross Sea has been the focus of extensive scientific research and remains one of the most intact marine ecosystems on Earth, with robust populations of whales, penguins, seals, albatrosses and other species.
Beginning in 2013, Ocean Elders, along with many others, advocated for the creation of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area. Initially, we called on all member countries of the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in a July 2013 letter to “take the necessary steps to support the establishment of permanent MPAs without time limits as the only right solution in the Southern Ocean.” At the same time, we wrote specifically to President Vladimir Putin asking him to “support the Ross Sea and East Antarctica marine protected area proposals.” Captain Don Walsh, Sir Richard Branson, Dr. Sylvia Earle and James Cameron also wrote individual letters to President Putin. Captain Don Walsh then followed with a letter to polar explorer and Russian Academy of Sciences member Artur Chilingarov.
These letters were followed by Sir Richard’s meeting with Secretary Kerry in April 2016, and that autumn, two op-eds penned by H. M. Queen Noor and Jose Maria Figueres.
The Ross Sea Marine Protected Area was approved by CCAMLR on October 27, 2016.