Southern Ocean Sanctuaries

 Antarctica, often perceived as a stark, frozen world, is bursting with colorful marine life. Below the ocean surface, brilliantly hued starfish, bioluminescent worms, pastel octopuses, and other creatures from miniscule to massive light up the waters. Strange fish, protected by a natural antifreeze in their bodies, share the krill-rich waters with penguins, seabirds, seals, and whales. The Ross Sea alone has more than 1 million pairs of Adélie penguins, 28,850 pairs of emperor penguins, 30,000 to 50,000 Weddell seals, 5.5 million Antarctic petrels, and 21,000 minke whales. Many Antarctic habitats have yet to be studied, and almost every research expedition discovers species. The Antarctic remains one of the world's last wild frontiers.

The region also holds some of the most pristine marine ecosystems left on the planet. The Ross and Weddell seas have been spared the widespread pollution, invasive species, bottom trawling, and other large-scale commercial fishing operations that are imperiling other oceans around the world, although the Southern Ocean has had extensive commercial whaling. But conditions are changing, and the need to protect Antarctica's oceans is now urgent.

That's why Pew and the Antarctic Ocean Alliance are advocating for a system of marine reserves in Antarctica's Southern Ocean. Our goal: to ensure comprehensive protection for the diversity of Antarctic marine life and their habitats.


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