The creatures of the Southern Ocean just got a lot more space to roam freely. On Thursday, 24 countries and the European Union agreed to set aside a 600,000-square-mile swath of ocean — roughly twice the size of Texas —  off the coast of Antarctica as a marine protected area.

It’s taken years of negotiations to get to this point, but the end result is the largest marine protected area ever created. More than two-thirds of the ocean set aside was designated a marine reserve, closing it to fishing and making it a particularly safe space for marine life to weather the pressures of climate change and overfishing. It’s a technique that’s had success in other parts of the world and in addition, scientists will also be able to use the Ross Sea as a baseline in the coming years to assess the impacts of climate change on the marine food web.

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