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Communicating Scientific Results

Marine Protection in the Ross Sea, Antarctica

Grant Ballard, PhD


Emperor Penguins. Photo by Viola Toniolo.
A major new study by PRBO and our partners at H.T. Harvey & Associates provides the scientific basis for establishing one of the largest marine protected areas (MPAs) ever proposed.

The agency that oversees fisheries in the Southern Ocean intends to establish several new MPAs in 2012. In the Ross Sea, the least altered marine ecosystem on Earth, a major goal in establishing an MPA is to maintain ecological integrity. This requires research to understand how the ecosystem works.

We assessed spatial and dietary requirements of nine major predator species, from Adélie and Emperor penguins to Ross Sea killer whales—a massive data compilation and modeling effort.

We found that these species use the entire continental shelf and slope of the Ross Sea. This suggests that an MPA there should incorporate large contiguous areas. We also provided conservation priority rankings for every five km2, now being used to evaluate competing proposals for a Ross Sea MPA.
Ross Sea killer whale. Photo by Viola Toniolo.