Preserving One of the Last and Greatest Ocean Wilderness Areas

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By Kerri-Ann Jones, US Department of State

On March 18, 2013, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to a packed room of diplomats from around the globe, non-governmental conservation advocates, and others about the urgency of protecting our vast oceans. New Zealand Ambassador to the United States Mike Moore and Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, two good friends of the United States and of oceans, joined the Secretary on the podium at this important event.

The Secretary spoke passionately about our connection and responsibility to the oceans as a people and a nation, and how ocean acidification, pollution, and fishing pressure are challenging our ability to sustain the sea and the benefits it provides to us all. You can read and watch his full remarks here.

These threats to the oceans are why the United States is so firmly committed to the protection of Antarctica's Ross Sea, one of the last and greatest ocean wilderness areas on our planet. This unique region is home to a highly productive and diverse ocean ecosystem that supports vast numbers of whales, penguins, seals, and other marine life.

Joined by New Zealand, we propose establishing a marine protected area in the Ross Sea roughly the size of Alaska. If established, it would be the largest protected area in the world. The protected area would specifically conserve critical habitats, marine life, and areas of ecological importance in the Ross Sea. Other areas of the Ross Sea would remain open to sustainably managed fisheries, allowing countries like New Zealand with an economic interest in the sea to continue to benefit from this rich area. This will give us both a baseline of untouched ocean and comparison regions where we can study the direct impact climate change and fishing are having on the oceans.

It is my sincere hope that the members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources approve our proposal at their next meeting this July. The United States will continue to work closely with all the members of the Commission to seize this historic opportunity. As Secretary Kerry said, "The world has shown that we can work together to ensure that Antarctica remains a place devoted to peace and devoted to expanding the human understanding of this fragile planet that we live on. This is one of the last places we could do this, and I think we owe it to ourselves to make it happen."

This piece was originally published on 26 March 2013 on the US Department of State Official Blog.

Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones serves as Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs in the US Department of State.

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