Ocean exposed by Larsen C ice shelf is now a protected area

Remember the huge chunk of ice that finally broke free in Antarctica? The British Antarctic Survey has just announced a new international agreement that is lending protection to the part of the ocean left exposed by the calving event. According to the research council, the agreement is now in place and will help ensure that researchers are able to research the marine conditions exposed for the first time in about 120,000 years.

The Larsen C ice shelf broke free in July after months of progressive splitting, ultimately exposing a huge 5800km area of the sea that has been covered since the last inter-glacial period. This is a big deal, as it gives researchers a chance to study marine life in the region and the effects this calving event has on them. Properly researching the effects, though, means ensuring humans don't disrupt the area.

The new protection comes under the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctica Marine Living Resources, an agreement passed last year. Under this agreement, parts of the exposed sea can be designated a Special Area for Scientific Study, at least in the Antarctic Peninsula region. Europe spurred this particular protection effort.

The protected status has been automatically conferred to the region for a period of two years due to meeting certain criteria. During this period, commercial fishing vessels and similar will have to avoid the region. It is suggested that the two year period could be extended in the future if necessary. Studies in this region could, among other things, help answer questions related to climate change.

SOURCE: British Antarctic Survey